The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, February 10-16

Evelyn Preer in Oscar Micheaux’s WITHIN OUR GATES (1919). Courtesy Film Forum, via Kino Lorber. Playing Monday, February 15.
Courtesy Film Forum, via Kino Lorber.

Within Our Gates (1919)
Directed by Oscar Micheaux
The earliest known surviving feature directed by an African-American was probably a response to the racist Birth of a Nation. Pointed contrasts between South and North (the first intertitle places the characters in the North, “where the prejudices and hatreds of the South do not exist—though this does not prevent the occasional lynching of a Negro”) and cuts back and forth between often harrowing scenes that make genteel schoolteacher Sylvia Landry (identified in the credits as “the renowned Negro artist Evelyn Preer”) a symbol of her people’s suffering, as her story encompasses lynching, the rape of black women by white men, and the abject kowtowing to powerful whites and casual betrayal of their own people of figures like a gossipy servant and a hypocritical preacher. Elise Nakhnikian (February 15, 7pm at Film Forum’s “Pioneers of African-American Cinema”; preceded by 1916 short Two Knights of Vaudeville and introduction by author and critic Brandon Harris)

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