Search - Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance on DVD

Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance
Against the Odds The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance
Actor: Joe Morton
Director: Amber Edwards
Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary, African American Cinema
NR     2006     1hr 0min

Studio: Pbs Release Date: 05/06/2009 Run time: 60 minutes


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Movie Details

Actor: Joe Morton
Director: Amber Edwards
Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary, African American Cinema
Sub-Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary, African American Cinema
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 01/31/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Our Painters: Simply Fantastic!
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 03/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This documentary gave me a flashback. In junior high, an art teacher assigned students to do reports on famous painters. I asked, "Why are there no women or people of color on the list?" Instead of admitting the lack of diversity, he critiqued me. You know how people like to say "The first person to bring up race is the racist" and it allows Eurocentricity off the hook? Well, this documentary revealed the racism in the American art world. Black artists were usually not invited to show their work, works with Black themes were belittled, and Blacks were usually only painted in caricature to whites. Though imperfect, Harlem Renaissance painters, ugh and their patrons, provided a contestation to those happenings.

I love the way high school and college literature courses are beginning to embrace Renaissance writers. However, this may leave many to think that the Harlem Renaissance lacked material artists. This documentary disproves that fallacy. It got tired hearing, "Here was this painter, and that sculptor, then another painter." Still, I love how this work is a "Who's Who of Renaissance Material Artists?" I think viewers can spot the artists that inspire them the most here and then conduct further research on them.

This documentary will make you repeat, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." These painters struggled with whether they should present Black themes or non-racialized ones. They questioned whether they should turn to Africa for inspiration or not. Painters had to put energy into resisting producing stereotypical images; however, though the narrator never says the term "bourgie," these painters did not just want to portray prim-and-proper "idealized" Black society life either. Of course, Langston Hughes' essay on "the New Negro artists" and his duties had to be quoted here.

It's understood that Harlem Renaissance writers were not all male. Many current readers celebrate Zora Neal Hurston, Jessie Fauset, and others. This documentary proves that not all of the material artists were male either. Still, this work does omit sexual orientation matters as Renaissance researchers often do, shamefully. Just as writers like Thurman, Nugent, and Hughes were gay or bisexual; this documentary discusses Alain Locke and Richard Barth'e Thompson but fails to mention their gay identities. This documentary was produced in the early 1990s and some of the artists were still alive. Seeing them, with speech problems, balding heads, and missing teeth, was a delightful window into the past.

This documentary had diverse interviewees in terms of race and gender. I loved that the interviewees admitted that white patrons and art critics were often limited or racist in their supposed promotion of these Black artists. However, all the interviewees came from New Jersey universities. I am surprised that no scholar from an NYU or Columbia, for example, was asked to submit some quotes.

I feel that I am a better human and stronger African American after seeing this work. I recommend this for numerous audiences."
Against the Odds
Albert J. Madden | 03/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A fine review of the painting arts. This is AOK for the paint Arts but out of the way for the MJusic art."