The Cannes Film Festival has unveiled its lineup for the 2021 Cannes Classics section, and will finally show cinephiles the greatness of filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. The selection consists of restored prints and new documentaries that explore the history of cinema. Among the offerings will be the 4K restoration of Micheaux’s Murder in Harlem.
Micheaux, the first Black American director in the history of U.S. cinema, developed Murder in Harlem, after adapting the real-life 1913 events from Georgia where a Black man was falsely accused of murder actually committed by a white man. While lesser known than Micheaux’s most celebrated works, 1920’s Within Our Gates and 1925’s Paul Robeson-led drama Body and Soul, this film contains one of the boldest moments in the late filmmaker’s career.
Italy’s Cineteca di Bologna and Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation assisted in the restoration.
Alongside Murder in Harlem, Francesco Zippel’s Oscar Micheaux —The Superhero of Black Filmmaking will also screen during Cannes. Only five films by Micheaux have been uncovered from his life, but on The Superhero of Black Filmmaking will include some remarkable behind-the-scenes footage of the filmmaker directing in the 1920s. “The greatest American story that nobody knows anything about,” according to Micheaux expert Patrick McGilligan, the restoration of The Superhero of Black Filmmaking could change how history regards one of the most impactful creatives to Black cinema.
Among the other special events held during the 2021 Cannes Film Festival are a tribute to director and actor Bill Duke who will present his 1985 The Killing Floor; Japanese actress and filmmaker Kinuyo Tanaka’s 1955 Tsuki Wa Noborinu (The Moon Has Risen); and Marcel Camus’ Orfeu Negro (Black Orfeus), which won the Palme d’Or in 1959.