Below is a swell report from Andy Uhrich (NYU MIAP '10) on the screening and discussion of Edward O. Bland's film THE CRY OF JAZZ (1959), which took place at the Maysles Cinema in Harlem on January 7. This showing was from a DVD of the film.
In the course of the past three years [1959-1961] we have been witnessing the spontaneous growth of a new generation of film makers -- the Free Cinema in England, the Nouvelle Vague in France, the young movements in Poland, Italy and Russia and, in this country, the work of Lionel Rogosin, John Cassavetes, Alfred Leslie, Robert Frank, Edward Bland, Bert Stern and the Sanders brothers.
-- and that Bland was a signer of this manifesto?)
From: Andy Uhrich <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Jan 8, 2010
Subject: CRY OF JAZZ screening
To: Dan Streible <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Jacqueline Stewart <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org
The screening last night was really great. Thanks to the press [in the NEW YORKER] and Mr. [Armond] White's presence the screening sold out the 60 or so seat room. Mr. [Albert] Maysles was there in the front row videotaping the proceedings. While the audience skewed older, the audience was a diverse mix of age and ethnicity.
The audience was clearly engrossed in the film and laughed at the scene of the poodle clipping as an embodiment of privileged white life.
Mr. White is clearly an ardent fan of the film. He started the discussion by talking about the film as a "lost" film due to its provocative indictment of racism. So while he didn't use the term orphan that idea is the way he framed the contextualization of the film. He also talked about the film as an aesthetic work, noting its blending of documentary and fiction. He made a comparison to Eisensteinian montage in the editing of the film's depiction of African American life, which isn't too far off the mark as the film's editor [Howard Alk] was a huge fan of Eisenstein.
The question-and-answer session was one of the better public discussions I've ever been to. People were intrigued by the film but not afraid to question its conclusions. People asked about the film's reception at the time, commented on the interracial romance in the film, and talked about the idea that jazz is dead. Mr. White was a great moderator and -- in response to the fact that there are no black women in the film and that the portrayal of white women is perhaps less than flattering -- talked about the tendency of otherwise progressive groups to often be quite sexist (the Panthers, for example). It was actually rather amazing how the film still touched a nerve and made people want to talk about the issues it raises.