Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film

Book Pages: 456 Illustrations: 134 illustrations Published: November 2019

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Critical Ethnic Studies, Media Studies > Film

Although overlooked by most narratives of American cinema history, films made for purposes outside of theatrical entertainment dominated twentieth-century motion picture production. This volume adds to the growing study of nontheatrical films by focusing on the ways filmmakers developed and audiences encountered ideas about race, identity, politics, and community outside the borders of theatrical cinema. The contributors to Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film examine the place and role of race in educational films, home movies, industry and government films, anthropological films, and church films as well as other forms of nontheatrical filmmaking. From filmic depictions of Native Americans and films by 1920s African American religious leaders to a government educational film about the unequal treatment of Latin American immigrants, these films portrayed—for various purposes and intentions—the lives of those who were mostly excluded from the commercial films being produced in Hollywood. This volume is more than an examination of a broad swath of neglected twentieth-century filmmaking; it is a reevaluation of basic assumptions about American film culture and the place of race within it.

Contributors. Crystal Mun-hye Baik, Jasmyn R. Castro, Nadine Chan, Mark Garrett Cooper, Dino Everett, Allyson Nadia Field, Walter Forsberg, Joshua Glick, Tanya Goldman, Marsha Gordon, Noelle Griffis, Colin Gunckel, Michelle Kelley, Todd Kushigemachi, Martin L. Johnson, Caitlin McGrath, Elena Rossi-Snook, Laura Isabel Serna, Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, Dan Streible, Lauren Tilton, Noah Tsika, Travis L. Wagner, Colin Williamson


Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film illuminates what is hidden right in front of us. Like cable or YouTube today, nontheatrical films have left evidence of a broader expression beyond commercial films and examining them through the lens of race gives us a peek into a less homogenous and more realistic world. This collection of essays reminds us to reclaim this space as culturally valuable and, in a sense, take the power back by shifting perspective to explore an overlooked reality, not a marginal one.” — Shola Lynch, Curator, Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of The New York Public Library

“This collection of essays—with its range of topics and archival discoveries—is essential reading for anyone committed to, or even remotely interested in, the study of cinema. Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film uncovers buried treasures that are part of the long-standing tradition of moving image storytelling—a tradition that did not always aspire to mainstream Hollywood recognition, but succeeded alongside it.” — Rhea L. Combs, Curator of Photography and Film and Director of the Center for African American Media Arts, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

"Brimming with sharp insights and archival discoveries, this valuable book opens up a world unknown to most and offers a look at American society in the 20th century, far from the artificial gloss of Hollywood cinema." — W. W. Dixon, Choice

“An informative collection of works, the volume deftly illustrates the breadth, reach, and influence of nontheatrical films that centre race and ethnicity. As a bonus, a rich collection of videos discussed in the book is available for use in classrooms, particularly for instructors of film or race and ethnic studies who desire to use movies to explore specific themes…. Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film serves as a handy reference for scholars, researchers, and students and as a helpful reminder of the hidden gems showcased outside the theatre.” — Maryann Mamie Erigha, Ethnic and Racial Studies


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Allyson Nadia Field is Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago.

Marsha Gordon is Professor of Film Studies at North Carolina State University.

Jacqueline Najuma Stewart is Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Note on the Companion Website  ix
Foreword. Giving Voice, Taking Voice: Nonwhite and Nontheatrical / Jacqueline Najuma Stewart  xi
Acknowledgments  xxv
Introduction / Allyson Nadia Field and Marsha Gordon  1
1. "A Vanishing Race"? The Native American Films of J. K. Nixon / Caitlin McGrath  29
2. "Regardless of Race, Color, or Creed": Filming the Henry Street Settlement Visiting Nurse Service, 1924–1933 / Tanya Goldman  51
3. "I'll See You in Church": Local Films in African American Communities, 1924–1962 / Martin L. Johnson  71
4. The Politics of Vanishing Celluloid: Fort Rupert (1951) and the Kwakwaka'wakw in American Ethnographic Film / Colin Williamson  92
5. Red Star/Black Star: The Early Career of Film Editor Hortense "Tee" Beveridge, 1948–1968 / Walter Forsberg  112
6. Charles and Ray Eames's Day of the Dead (1957): Mexican Folk Art, Educational Film and Chicana/o Art / Colin Gunkel  136
7. Ever-Widening Horizons? The National Urban League and the Pathologization of Blackness in A Morning for Jimmy (1960) / Michelle Kelley  157
8. "A Touch of the Orient": Negotiating Japanese American Identity in The Challenge (1957) / Todd Kushigemachi and Dino Everett  175
9. "I Have My Choice": Behind Every Good Man (1967) and the Black Queer Subject in American Nontheatrical Film / Noah Tsika  194
10. Televising Watts: Joe Saltzman's Black on Black (1968) on KNXT / Joshua Glick  217
11. "A New Sense of Black Awareness"? Navigating Expectations in The Black Cop (1969) / Travis L. Wagner and Mark Garrett Cooper  236
12. "Don't Be a Segregationist: Program Films for Everyone": The New York Public Library's Film Library and Youth Film Workshops / Elena Rossi-Snook and Lauren Tilton  253
13. Teenage Moviemaking in the Lower East Side: The Rivington Street Film Club, 1966–1974 / Noelle Griffis  271
14. Ro-Revus Talks about Race: South Carolina Malnutrition and Parasite Films, 1968–1975 / Dan Streible  290
15. Government-Sponsored Film and Latinidad: Voice of La Raza (1973) / Laura Isabel Serna  313
16. An Aesthetics of Multiculturalism: Asian American Assimilation and the Learning Corporation of America's Many Americans Series (1970–1982) / Nadine Chan  333
17. "The Right Kind of Family": Memories to Light and the Home Movie as Racialized Technology / Crystal Mun-Hye Baik  353
18. Black Home Movies: Time to Represent / Jasmyn R. Castro  372
Selected Bibliography  392
Contributors  401
Index  403
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