The Fall 2016 release of The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker's film about Nat Turner's 1831 slave revolt in Virginia, rekindled the debate over the historical significance of The Birth of a Nation (1915) almost exactly 100 years after the release of D.W. Griffith's film. Metz will explore the first volley in the African-American assault on Griffith's film, led by novelist turned filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux. Oscar Micheaux was born in or near Metropolis, Illinois, on January 2, 1884. He moved to Chicago at age 17 and worked as a porter before moving to South Dakota to farm and write. Micheaux's experiences served as the subject matter for his novel The Homesteader. In 1919, he produced a big screen version of the novel, which was the first full-length feature produced by an African American filmmaker. A sometimes controversial trailblazer, Micheaux continued to make films for the next three decades until his death on March 25, 1951, in Charlotte, North Carolina. "As a young man, Oscar Micheaux successfully bridged many worlds: black and white, urban and rural, upper and lower class, remote, cold northern prairie environment and warm, populous southern society. In bridging these worlds, often as a participant and always as an observer, Micheaux gained an understanding and developed a viewpoint that significantly influenced his personal philosophy and became a part of his books and films." - Betti Carol Van Epps-Taylor, Oscar Micheaux: Dakota Homesteader Walter Metz is a Professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography at Southern Illinois University, where he teaches film, television and literary history, theory, and criticism. He has a Master's degree in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of three books: Engaging Film Criticism: Film History and Contemporary American Cinema (2004), Bewitched (2007) and Gilligan's Island (2012). Currently, he is drafting a book manuscript entitled Molecular Cinema, a new theoretical exploration of materialism in cinema as a way of re-thinking the relationship between science and film.
Within His Gates: Oscar Micheaux and the Rise of African-American Cinema - Library Evening Upstairs