Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fort Lee High School Students Pay Tribute To Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

video
from 2/8/08 from ny1.com

Fort Lee High School celebrated black history month Friday by showcasing the history of black filmmakers and the borough's extensive role in independent film. NY1's Joe Malvasio filed the following report. Oscar Micheaux, by many film-historians account, is one of the most influential black filmmakers. "Oscar Micheaux is probably the most important black filmmaker in our history not because he was the first, but because he made so many films," said independent filmmaker and historian Pearl Bowser. Micheaux made 40 in all, spanning a 30-year career. And he got his start in Fort Lee. "We can tell these students, right where you sit, right in this neighborhood, blocks away, there was a wonderful innovative filmmaker, whose work still survives and in fact is getting more recognition than every before," said Tom Meyers of the Fort Lee Film Commission. Micheaux earned recognition while working at Metropolitan Studios, his base of operations in the borough, which is now the site of Constitution Park. "You think about early film in Fort Lee, when the filmmaking center of the United States was here, you had D.W Griffith, a great filmmaker, very innovative, some of his films if you look back with a critical eye he had a certain slant," said Meyers. "Certainly in 'Birth of a Nation,' which wasn't shot in Fort Lee, you can say that parts of it, if not all of it had a racist theme through it. "Contrasted by Micheaux, whose work focused specifically on issues affecting the black community. "They were narratives, very community-based cinema," said Bowser. "He was talking about issues that were very much on the minds of the black population at the time; 'Within our Gates' was about lynching. It's about education." At Friday's screening, the Fort Lee and Bergen County Film Commissions showed students a documentary called "In the Shadow of Hollywood," which besides highlighting Micheaux's career, gave students a glimpse at the history of black cinema. A history historians say has deep roots in Fort Lee.

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