Being the fan of film that I am, I spend a lot more time watching and researching cinema from way before I was born than I do the new stuff. There’s just so much of it out there, and so much I’ve yet to see. For this reason, I depend on film restoration and releasing companies like Criterion and Kino Lorber who give very old, forgotten, or almost destroyed films the chance to get cleaned up and put on Blu-ray for generations to come to see. They both do a great job, but there’s always more films out there to restore.
On Wednesday, February 4th, Kino Lorber launched a Kickstarter campaign for a very specific and special project, which will eventually become the Pioneers of African-American Cinema Blu-ray box set. While most people are familiar with the Hollywood system of the early days of cinema, far fewer are aware that many independent productions and exhibitions did just as well. A whole industry of African-American filmmakers and actors sprang up out of the desire for people of color to be represented positively in the industry. Out of this, very successful and influential directors like Oscar Micheaux, Richard D. Maurice, and Spencer Williams broke out. But their films have not been widely seen, and this is what Kino wants to change.
In order to give each film in the set, which will contain artifacts from 1914-1944, the proper restoration it needs, the Kickstarter is asking for $35,000, which is far less than a lot of campaigns have asked for in recent years. Still, Kino needs this in order to do justice to films that are both important cultural artifacts and thrilling pieces of Early-20th Century entertainment. And the more money they recieve, the more films they can restore and include in the set. The campaign runs now until mid-March 2015. For a partial list of the films proposed, and for more information on pledging, visit their Kickstarter Page.