Within Our Gates (1920) * Worst Hits *
Genre: Silent Drama
Starring: Evelyn Preer, Flo Clements
Directed By: Oscar Micheaux
Overview: This is the story of a black woman who devotes herself to helping keep the School for Negroes from going bankrupt.
Acting: I made a short film once, just a little 8 minute or so film, but it never made it to final editing. You know the worst thing about this film I made? How obvious it was that the actor (myself) had no idea what he was doing, even in situations involving walking, sitting, getting up and looking at a mirror. Every scene in THIS film is exactly like that. It pains me to watch these people who are clearly not actors fumble around directed by someone whose only claim to fame is that he's the first African-American Director. Give me Superfly anyday over these amateurs.
Cinematography: When you look forward to the lynching just because it's outdoors, it doesn't make you a racist, it makes you realize that when you shoot a movie, every scene should not be a guy writing behind a desk. This played out more like a graphic novel, with pictures on screen just because 'fine, I guess it's the medium, so we have to'. Most of this film was an intertitle followed by a woman crossing a room, then another intertitle, or a guy reading a paper behind his desk, then an intertitle.
I'm sure there was no budget for the black man in 1920, but there is an outside, and that's free.
Script: "Preacher Ned will do more to keep these Negroes in their place than all your schools combined."
The best part of this film was the script. I don't think I've ever seen a silent film with so many intertitles, and thank God because this is a better read than a watch. The dialogue is genuinely poignant and very telling, not only of the ignorant past they talk about, but also the era of 1920, and the ignorant future they're trying to avoid from happening. Some of the words still sting today. Yes we've come a long way, but this is proof that we've much further to go.
Plot: This is some of the most unfocused garbage I've seen since Les Vampires, and for the same reason. There are three distinct and unique plots going on that really only have a common element of our female lead character. One plot has a criminal committing crimes, one has a school for Negroes that needs funding, and one is this female lead talking about a lynching that happened in her family's history. The concept of each as its own separate film is cool. Together, it's clearly an attempt at drawing out the story for time.
Mood: There are some movies that are like fillings. You have to go get them. You're committed to going to the dentist, so he can help you, and then you're done and you can go on with life. I will admit that watching a movie in 20-minute chunks is not the intended method of viewing, but if you want to cure me of that, make a good movie. It's that effin' easy.
To quote Wonder Showzen: "NOT FUNNY!"
Overall Rating: 28% (Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here)
Aftertaste: The first feature film directed by the first African-American is not must see. The first movie made by a white guy is ALSO not a must see. The first car that could turn into a robot was a GoBot. GoBots suck just as bad as this movie sucks. I knew that one of the first real movies ever made would just be cool because it's the first. Also it's only 14 minutes long. This was 79! And it hurt. 'First' doesn't mean good, it doesn't even make it important. At the video store, they said I was the first person to rent their copy. I'm sure I'll be the last.