Re: Artefact Festival - exhibition and performances 'On Gaps And Silent Documents'

From: Tom B Whiteside (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Feb 05 2010 - 12:18:01 PST

This program in Leuven Belgium, described below, is quite remarkable -
this is the second Micheaux feature that has had a jazz drum solo written
for it (or improvised, as it seems). Max Roach wrote and performed a drum
solo for the re-premiere of "Within Our Gates" back in the 1990's - I
think the screening was at AFI in Washington, DC (?) I did not attend, but
remember hearing about it. Roach performed live. I believe that the people
who had commissioned the film score were expecting a quartet, but it was
just him. I did see that version, with his recorded soundtrack, on video
later. It worked beautifully. Roach was a genius and he was known as the
most melodic drummer, but even so, a drum solo for a feature length silent
film is quite a bold undertaking. Here it is again, different film and
different drummer. Cool.

It is difficult to imagine what a screening of "Within Our Gates" would
have been like in the 1920's - a double lynching, white on black rape, and
other examples of what we might call "difficult" plot points. The film
didn't have many screenings in the US originally - are you kidding? It had
riot written all over it. The restoration was from a print discovered in
a European archive, if I recall correctly the intertitles were in Flemish.

Micheaux - what an interesting career! I think he'd be pleased that people
are still showing his movies - and drumming to them.

        - Tom

Saturday 13 Feb 2010: 20h30
The Symbol of the Unconquered
William Hooker
--> In this performance free jazz drumming legend William Hooker will
improvise a live soundtrack to pioneering African-American filmmaker Oscar
Micheaux’s 1920 silent film classic 'The Symbol of the Unconquered',
originally advertised as a chance to come see “the annihilation of the Ku
Klux Klan.” Some of Micheaux's earliest and most significant films were
responses to D.W. Griffith’s 'Birth of a Nation' (1915), portraying the
African-American struggle against white racism and the KKK. Some of these
films were lost for decades and restored in the 1990s. In 'Symbol of the
Unconquered', the black hero holds his ground and protects a light-skinned
mulatto neighbor (who is passing as white) as a local gang of thieves and
hooded, torch-carrying Klansmen plots to frighten him, steal his land and
finally, to kill him. Though how they do it remains unknown due to a key
missing reel, the amorous “black” couple emerges from the ordeal unscathed
and thrilled to discover their shared r!
 acial identity.