Within Our Gates
It is easy to be hard on ”Within our Gates”. Technically this is an awful film. I can find tons of ways to deride this movie but that does not mean that it is not worth seeing it.
Within our Gates was the first black movie to be made, meaning it was made by Afro-American, using Afro-Americans and likely for Afro-Americans. As such it is an antidote to D.W. Griffith “Birth of a Nation” with the notable difference that “Birth of a Nation” was technically ahead of its time while “Within our Gates” is technically primitive.
I imaging a bunch of guys saying: Hey, why don’t we make a movie? How difficult can it be? Then we can tell OUR story. Man, that could be soo cool.
Then they gather friends and family and dig up a camera from somewhere and start shooting.
They do have a story. Actually several stories, which to some extend interconnect. And it is also a good story, relevant and touching. They just sort of skipped the entire script part. There is a woman leaving the north to go down to the south where there is a school chaired by a doctor who is struggling to keep it afloat. The woman returns back north to raise money for the school. Other sub plots involve the woman’s family and a black preacher who is supporting the white elite keeping the blacks submissive.
It is a good story with lots of good and interesting points. Unfortunately it is told by showing people talking in front of a static camera and then driving the story forward using lots of inter-titles. That means that the story does not catch at all. Some scenes are way too long, while some are rushed. Some does not tell anything and without the inter-titles those scenes would just be really confusing.
The acting is not really acting because acting implies that you are actually trying to act. In fact it reminds me of the home videos we would do as children with borrowed equipment.
In “Birth of a Nation” I wished there was a worthwhile story to apply their superior technique on. With “Within our Gates” I wished they had adequate technique to apply on their superior story.
As it is it is (again) one of those movies I am glad to have seen but not really inclined to watch again.
Yeah, that's about it. It's not so much that it's incompetent as it is amateurish. It's not so much that it's bad as it is just dull.ReplyDelete
But then again I would not expect the first black movie to be a big and expensive production. I just wish they had made it a bit better.Delete
The thing that I found most interesting about this film was that the three "evil" characters - the thief, the preacher, and the gossip - all had far darker skin than the "good" characters - the school teacher, the administrator, etc.ReplyDelete
There used to be a prejudice among blacks that those with lighter skin were better than those with darker. Even in a film made by blacks for blacks, some stigmas still were kept.
Ironic really. I did not notice that detail, only the message that blacks are their own worst enemy, which is interesting in itself. And sad.Delete
We watched this in film class and a lot of people were really put off by how bad the production values were. I think Oscar Micheaux was a much better writer than he was a director, but at least he was a pioneer. He never had enough money to do what he wanted with his stories.ReplyDelete
I would have loved to see what he could with a larger budget. It is such a shame that his story drown out in poor production.Delete