Special presentation by MoMA's Ron Magliozzi, including the reconstructed Bert Williams: Lime Kiln Club Field Day
At a challenging time of segregation in the fall of 1913, a virtuoso cast of African-American performers, led by famed Caribbean-American entertainer Bert Williams (1874–1922), gathered in the Bronx to make a feature-length motion picture. After more than an hour of film was shot, the unreleased project was abandoned by its white producers and left forgotten until today.
Found in MoMA’s Biograph Studio collection, the seven reels of untitled and unassembled footage represent the earliest known surviving feature with a cast of black actors. Shot at locations in New York and New Jersey, the comedy centers on Williams’s efforts to win the hand of the local beauty and boasts among its highlights a two-minute exhibition dance sequence and a cutting-edge display of on-screen affection between its black leads. Additionally, nearly 100 remarkable still images of the interracial production were recovered from within the unedited material, providing evidence of an historic effort by a little-known Harlem theatrical community to gain access to the developing medium of moving pictures.
SFSFF presents the Museum’s restoration of this lost landmark of film history with an hour-long assemblage of daily rushes and multiple takes. MoMA project leader, Associate Curator Ron Magliozzi, will narrate a selection of unique photographs from the pioneering production and present visual material explaining the film’s creation, 101-year disappearance, and ultimate resurrection.
Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Co-presented by Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive