Release Date: 2003
Where I Watched: Amazon Prime
This documentary popped up in my Prime queue, and I jumped on it. Like the incredible Horror Noire, Century takes a look at the sadly neglected history of black cinema, as well as the creators, performers, and back stories. From short silent films of the early 1900s to the films of Spike Lee, it’s a tribute to the talent and creativity of these artists.
The narration from Kim Delgado feels more like a college lecture than a film. But the subject matter keeps getting better and better as the film goes on, so it’s easy to forgive the formal sounding structure of the narrative. It does feel like he wasn’t given much leeway to go off script and give the lines his own punch, so I’m gonna give him a pass.
Interviews with performers and creators speaking on the effect these films had on them give a personal touch to the running historical time line. There are also clips of performers such as Sidney Poitier, Eddie Murphy, and Richard Pryor, sharing brief stories about their experiences. And okay, Bill Cosby plays a large role in the discussion of films of the 70s… But hey. 2003. And while the guy has been condemned for his real life actions, he did create a lot of popular films that helped changed the face of Hollywood. No quarter given, but that does need to be said.
Century showed me that there’s so much I didn’t know, like –
*Birth of a Race, the response to the racist Birth of a Nation, that got sidetracked by racism
*The Lincoln Company – a short lived production company formed by African Americans
*Broken Strings – a family drama with Whiplash vibes
And that’s just a taste. This documentary is a treasure trove of film history past and present (well, relatively present), and it’s well worth your two hours. I just wish it could be digitally remastered for sound and visuals. It’s grainy and feels like it’s going to fade from view. That would be a shame. Let’s hope it gets the love and attention it deserves.
Come for: the great history lesson
Stay for: a great collection of film and television clips showing performers you may not have seen much of. Think of it as a bibliography for future viewing.