Thursday, March 13, 2014


In the beginning...She Blinded Me With Silents (Post 6 of 12)

Within Our Gates

I knew nothing about the Oscar Micheaux story before I heard a piece on the African-American filmmaker on NPR a few years ago. Oscar worked as a homesteader, a Pullman porter and owned his own business before becoming a novelist and eventually starting his own movie production company. He made forty films between 1919 and 1948. Very few survive.

Within Our Gates is one that we are lucky to have. The plot starts off with the feel of cheap melodrama, but as the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks, we see there is a lot of substance here dealing with racism, poverty, justice and the search for basic human dignity. 

It is also telling that Micheaux always had very little budget to work with, so there were basically no retakes. It's pretty remarkable under those circumstances it works as well as it does. There are a lot of scenes of note that I could point out in Within Our Gates, but the one that really sticks in my mind is of the preacher who plays the part of an idiot in front of the white businessmen and as soon as he leaves them, feels consumed with self-loathing.

Any student of the history of film should definitely check this out!


  1. I liked this one far more than I expected to. I expected nothing more than amateur filmmaking, but got something that showed real promise. I won't call it great, but I will agree that it's worth seeing for the history if nothing else.

  2. The cheap production is both a handicap and an asset. It does look like home video, but it also makes it look very honest. It was interesting more than entertaining.