20140605Oscar Micheaux was a visionary and revolutionary force as a filmmaker, entrepreneur and novelist, and undeniably black America's first multimedia champion.
During the first half of the 20th century he wrote, produced and directed 40 feature-length films in every genre including musicals, Westerns, romances, comedies and gangster stories.
In this programme Professor Ed Guerrero meets with Director Pearl Bowser, Emmy winning producer Sam Pollard and writer Clyde Taylor to explore Micheaux's unique place in black cinema's cultural, political and aesthetic history.
Micheaux considered himself a cinematic propagandist, and his productions an antidote to the ghastly images Hollywood presented with black people consigned to roles depicting them exclusively as servants, sexually crazed hoods or lazy tramps. As we'll discover he was a complex, driven figure whose ambition sometimes clouded his judgment, and whose objectives were so epic he was fated to fail in a society that, during his lifetime neither acknowledged his greatness nor respected his achievements. He was the first African-American to produce and direct a full-length talking film, in 1931.
His work has recently been acknowledged by New York percussionist William Hooker who has composed and performed fresh soundtracks to a selection of Micheaux's early films and introduces these to a new audience. His story has influenced young film maker Lisa Collins, currently working on a project asking why a predominantly 'white town' in South Dakota celebrates Micheaux's life with an annual film festival.
Micheaux has influenced other black film directors such as Spike Lee and was honoured with a Director's Guild Award in 1986. A year later he was given a star on Hollywood Boulevard.