Black, Not Blaxploitation

SAM screens four classics of African-American cinema

In his 1964 Nothing but a Man, director Michael Roemer, a Jew who fled Germany, clearly found a resonance with his own experience in the cruelties of black Southern life. The story has an almost folk-tale simplicity. Duff (Ivan Dixon) works on a traveling railroad section gang. He feels that, like any other man, he’s entitled to the comforts of a family, so when he falls for a small-town preacher’s daughter (Abbey Lincoln), he decides to marry, much to his co-workers’ derision. Because he won’t “act the nigger,” he can’t keep a job. When the pressures get too great, he takes them out on his wife. The film plays almost as a documentary on the difficulties of black family life. The actors are so natural, and the tone of the film is so low-key, that the effect is powerfully real. It’s astounding, and painful, to see how contemporary the film seems, especially in its depiction of the near-

destruction of the black father. Lincoln is superb in her laconic dignity and hope. Screening over the next three Fridays are Killer of Sheep (made in 1977, but its reissue last year reached many 10-best lists), My Brother’s Wedding (also by Charles Burnett), and Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. (NR)

Fri., Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m., 2008

 
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