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Within Our Gates 12 rating

Oscar Micheaux’s startling silent classic – the earliest surviving feature from an African-American director – presents a fascinating black counterpoint to Griffith’s Birth of a Nation.

Drama 1919 74 mins Silent

Director: Oscar Micheaux


Black filmmaking pioneer Oscar Micheaux wrote, produced and directed this landmark example of African-American cinema. It stars Evelyn Preer (then known as the black community’s ‘First Lady of the Screen’) as a woman trying to set up a school for poor black children in the Deep South, but whose romance with a doctor provokes startling revelations.

With its shocking depictions of racial violence, including a black lynching, the film was deeply controversial at the time, but can now be seen as a vital repudiation of the deplorable contemporaneous depictions in D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915). Within Our Gates is a key work in the movement of ‘race films’, an early wave of black American cinema (with Micheaux at its forefront) that was independently distributed during the era of segregation. The earliest surviving work by an African-American director, Within Our Gates is not just a work of significant historical importance, but a compelling and searingly authentic drama in its own right. This silent film is presented here with a new score by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky.