Eight Annual Black Filmworks Festival of Film and Video
The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame celebrates its eighth anniversary this year with a variety of intriguing programs, including The Keeper, a drama about the experiences of a Haitian immigrant family in the United States; W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices, a documentary about the scholar and political activist; the well-received Blacks and Jews, the race relations documentary by Bay Area filmmakers Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman; and a wide range of short films. Guests include writer Donald Bogle and actor/director Robert Townsend. Most welcome, though, is a minitribute to an unjustly neglected black actress. Dorothy Dandridge, who committed suicide in 1965, was as gifted as any of her glamour-queen peers of the 1950s, but with the same apparently insurmountable drawback that capsized Lena Horne's career: black skin. The BFHF is showing one of her classics, the 1954 Otto Preminger musical Carmen Jones, a spectacular showcase for Dandridge's enormous talents. Of still greater interest is her rarely seen 1957 film Tamango, directed by blacklist victim John Berry. This stirring historical drama, where Dandridge plays the mistress of a white captain on a mutiny-minded slave ship headed for Cuba, is especially timely with Steven Spielberg's Amistad looming. Tamango was made in France, which so often provided a warm haven for black artists, but was banned in the United States for its interracial theme and its activist politics. The BFHF is showing a restored Cinemascope print rumored to be the only one in existence, and the venue couldn't be better: Oakland's spectacular Paramount Theater.