CIFF 2021- “Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking” Doesn’t Save the Day: Film Capsule Review

Despite the eye-catching title that seems intended for the masses, Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking is as dry as documentaries come. Unlike Micheaux’s works, the film lacks passion, evoking memories of rote academic material found in a film studies classroom.

There no doubting that Micheaux is the godfather of Black American cinema. His do-it-yourself contributions to the cinematic form are innumerable. Unfortunately, Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking doesn’t offer much that hasn’t already been covered by the filmmaker before. The world needs to know the name Oscar Micheaux, but given director Francesco Zippel’s droll, scholarly approach, this documentary may gain the legend only a few more avid supporters.

The Silver Lining

While Zippel uses a plethora of talking heads footage to convey the importance of Micheaux, it’s the rare screen test footage that encapsulates the auteur nature of the filmmaker. Always behind the scenes, this footage finally allows us to get a glimpse of the man himself.

Even though the footage is silent, the way he motions to his actors to perform shows the dedication Micheaux had to his craft. As he mouths “Action!”, the fierce determination in his eyes makes it clear that the Murder in Harlem director was truly a cinematic maverick.

Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking is a part of the Chicago International Film Festival’s 2021 line up. The film is coming soon to a screen near you.

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