Film Critics Team With Cable Channel to Showcase History of Black Cinema

Turner Classic Movies, with the help of the African-American Film Critics Association, will highlight 32 films throughout September that represent a long history of black themes in the movies. Members of the association will take part in the spotlight event.

At a time when films produced by, directed by, and starring black artists are gaining wider audiences and greater recognition—see the recent success stories of Get Out, Girls Trip, Moonlight, and Sorry to Bother You, among others—the African-American Film Critics Association isn’t forgetting its history. In fact, AAFCA will be showcasing it on the cable dial next month, as part of a new partnership with Turner Classic Movies.

The channel will play host to the association and some of its prominent members as part of “The Black Experience on Film,” a month-long event highlighting portrayals of a variety of black themes in cinema from the 1920s through the 1990s.

Among the movies to be featured are 1920’s Within Our Gates, the oldest known surviving film with a black director, and 1991’s Daughters of the Dust, the first film released theatrically in the U.S. that was directed by an African-American woman. The selections include three movies starring or directed by Sidney Poitier, the first black actor to win an Academy Award for best actor. The showcase represents a highly diverse mix of offerings, including comedies, musicals, and romance films.

Thirteen AAFCA members will discuss the films and their collective impact on air, starting September 4.

In comments published by The Grapevine, AAFCA President Gil Robertson said the goal of the project is to highlight the “long and arduous journey” of African-Americans in cinema.

“Since the earliest beginnings of the art form, African-Americans have had a presence in cinema. That is the point we hope these 32 films will drive home,” Robertson said. “Our intent is that audiences be engaged, entertained, and enlightened by the sheer diversity and breadth of this substantial arc of film programming.”

Founded in 2003, AAFCA has been working to put film into a broader cultural context—for example, hosting a series of events featuring the cinematic works of the late musician and filmmaker Prince last year.

A scene from "Within Our Gates," the oldest known surviving film with a black director. (Film Society Lincoln Center)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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