Black Harvest Film Festival: THE SYMBOL OF THE UNCONQUERED


THEATER 1 Sat, Nov 11, 2023 7:00 PM
Film Info
Runtime:54 min
Release Year:1920
Production Country:USA
Original Language:No dialogue
Cast/Crew Info
Director:Oscar Micheaux


In a landmark celebration of cinematic history and cultural diversity, the historic Blacklight Film Festival, commemorated as part of the 50th Anniversary of Chicago Filmmakers, joins forces with the esteemed Black Harvest Film Festival to present a one-of-a-kind screening event. Cinephiles and music enthusiasts alike are invited to witness a special screening of Oscar Micheaux's timeless silent film SYMBOL OF THE UNCONQUERED. This remarkable cinematic experience will be accompanied by a live improvised and electronic music score performed by the incredibly talented trio of Edward Wilkerson Jr., Jim Baker, and Jonathan Woods.

The collaboration holds special significance as it pays homage to the legacy of Blacklight Film Festival, a festival of international Black cinema founded in 1982 by Floyd Webb and the late Terry White Glover at Chicago Filmmakers. Blacklight Film Festival, which reached its zenith at the Film Center of the School of the Art Institute, concluded its inspiring run in 1994. During its tenure, Blacklight Film Festival earned global recognition as one of the few festivals in the United States to spotlight African cinema, the LA Rebellion film movement, and the works of the UK Black Film Workshops. It also pioneered video works through early projection systems. Blacklight premiered numerous film during it tenure, Spike Lee’s SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT, Malian filmmaker Soulymane Cisse’s YEELEN and Julia Dash’s DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST.

The focal point of the evening will be Oscar Micheaux's SYMBOL OF THE UNCONQUERED a silent film created in 1920. This cinematic gem is one of Micheaux's three surviving silent films out of the remarkable twenty-two films he directed between 1919 and 1930. In his work, Micheaux fearlessly delved into the contentious themes of racism, the complex experiences of mixed-race individuals, and the dark shadow cast by Jim Crow and White Supremacy. Though the film ultimately portrays a hopeful conclusion, it navigates through profound disarray as it follows the journey of Eve Mason from her native Alabama to the North-West. The film's plot revolves around Eve Mason (Iris Hall), who embarks on a journey upon learning of her grandfather's passing. Leaving her small Southern town behind, she travels west to inspect her newly-inherited land. With the assistance of her neighbor, Hugh Van Allen (Walker Thompson), she arrives at her grandfather's homestead. However, when the self-loathing Jefferson Driscoll (Lawrence Chenault) discovers that Van Allen's property sits atop a vast oil reserve, he joins forces with a group of unsavory criminals to threaten Mason and force Van Allen off his land. Oscar Devereaux Micheaux (1884 – 1951) was an American author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 films. Micheaux is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker, a prominent producer of race films, and has been described as "the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century".

The musical accompaniment for this cinematic masterpiece will be performed by a trio of extraordinary musicians:

Edward Wilkerson Jr.: A prominent saxophonist and clarinet player, Edward Wilkerson Jr. is a renowned figure in the Chicago music scene. Apart from his instrumental prowess, he is celebrated for his composition work and his affiliation with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).

Jim Baker: With a musical career spanning several decades, Jim Baker is a distinguished pianist and synthesizer artist. His improvisational expertise has been captured on over eighty commercially released recordings, showcasing his versatility and creativity.

Jonathan Woods: An artist with a multifaceted skill set, Jonathan Woods specializes in film/animation direction, improvised visual projection, and music production. He is a prominent member of the AACM and has collaborated with various influential musicians.

This exceptional event not only commemorates the past but also serves as a testament to the enduring power of film and music to inspire, educate, and unite audiences. It embodies the essence of Blacklight Film Festival's legacy and its commitment to celebrating diversity and innovation in the world of cinema.

The Blacklight Film Festival was a significant cultural event that celebrated international Black cinema and contributed to the recognition and appreciation of African diaspora films. Founded in 1982, the festival played a crucial role in showcasing the diverse voices and stories of Black filmmakers from around the world. Here is a more detailed overview of the Blacklight Film Festival:

  • The Blacklight Film Festival was co-founded by Floyd Webb and Terry White Glover. Their vision was to create a platform for showcasing films that explored the African diaspora experience, highlighting the stories, struggles, and achievements of Black people across the globe.
  • The festival had its roots in Chicago, with its main programming taking place at Chicago Filmmakers, a non-profit media arts organization dedicated to supporting independent film and video production. In addition to Chicago Filmmakers, the festival also held screenings at the Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • The festival's primary mission was to promote and celebrate Black cinema, providing a space for filmmakers, artists, and audiences to engage with films that explored various aspects of the African diaspora, including its history, culture, and contemporary issues.
  • One of the distinguishing features of the Blacklight Film Festival was its global perspective. It showcased films not only from the United States but also from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and other parts of the world. This international reach allowed audiences to experience the rich diversity of Black filmmaking.
  • The festival focused on films that explored the African diaspora, which encompasses the global dispersion of people of African descent due to the transatlantic slave trade, migration, and other historical factors. These films often addressed themes such as identity, cultural heritage, social justice, and the complexities of the Black experience.
  • Blacklight Film Festival provided a platform for independent Black filmmakers to showcase their work. This support was crucial in giving voice to emerging talents and promoting diversity in filmmaking.
  • Blacklight Film Festival earned a reputation for its dedication to advancing Black cinema and contributing to the understanding of the African diaspora. Its legacy includes helping to shape the discourse around Black filmmaking and providing a space for critical discussions on race, identity, and representation in cinema.

    The Blacklight Film Festival made a significant impact during its existence, contributing to the recognition of Black cinema as a vital and diverse component of global filmmaking. While the festival concluded in 1994, its legacy lives on, and its influence can still be seen in the continued growth and recognition of Black filmmakers and Black cinema around the world.