S & A's Sergio To Host And Discuss Screening of 'Race' Film 'Broken Strings' in Feb.

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by Sergio
January 15, 2013 5:52 PM
4 Comments
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That's right folks, little old me. But first, as you may recall, just a few days ago, I wote an item about The Black Cinema House in Chicago, a newly established screening space, in operation since this fall, devoted to the exhibition and discussion of independent and rarely seen black cinema in all its forms - HERE

Among the films the House has screened recently were the groundbreaking experimental 1958 classic Cry of Jazz, which was introduced by Northwestern University professor Jacqueline Stewart, Richard Pryor's Jo Jo Dancer - Your Life Is Calling and the New York film collective Cinema Stereo.

And now moi will be introducing the 1940 "race" film, Broken Strings, starring and written by Clarence Muse, on Sunday Feb. 24, starting at 3PM.

Though most people automatically think of filmmaker Oscar Micheaux when it come to "race' films (independently made and distributed black films, made from the silent era to the late 1940's for the African-American audience), there were, in fact, many race film filmmakers, both white and black, aside from Micheaux. Unfortunately, many of these films have been lost to be perhaps never seen again.

Muse was, in effect, quite similar to his peer Paul Robeson, in that he was a true renaissance man. With a degree in international law, Muse was also an opera singer, a composer, a screenwriter and was the first black director of a Broadway play.

Unfortunately, of the over 150 films that he appeared in during his career, the last one being 1979's The Black Stallion at the age of 90, Muse was almost always reduced to playing stereotyped, buffoonish characters, usually in the role of a devoted slave, a horse groom or a servant.

Broken Strings was one of his rare opportunities to "call the shots" as it were. In the film, he wrote the lead role for himself - that of a classical violinist whose hands are severely damaged in a car accident. He is reduced to barely scraping by, giving violin lessons, However his son, who Muse intends to have him follow in his footsteps as a classical musician through harsh practice sessions, would rather play swing jazz music, which Muse thinks is the work of the devil. What he doesn't know is that his son is secretly playing in jazz clubs at night to earn the money for a career-saving operation for his father.

Though it's admitedly corny at times, Strings effectively deals the generational conflict between the older black generation who are striving for acceptance and to "uplift" the race, and the younger set who are more interested in discovering their own voice, free of the burden of white acceptance.

And on top of that, it's got one of the best last lines for any movie, period. And no I'm not going to tell you. You'll have to come and find out for yourself.

To find out more about the screening and to reserve a seat go HERE.

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4 Comments

  • Roof Pounder | September 9, 2013 10:40 PMReply

    I wish I had known about this screening and discussion, as I certainly would have attended. I first came across Broken Strings back in the 80s when the BET network was new and was filling up programming time with "race" movies by Oscar Micheaux and other filmmakers. Since it was obviously made on a tiny budget with mostly untrained actors, the things that stand out are the story and the powerful performance of its star, Clarence Muse who, as the article above points out, contributed greatly to the script. Like 1927's The Jazz Singer, the movie deals with cultural identity and the musical generation gap. Also like The Jazz Singer, it has moments of pure corn. But in many ways, I think this is a superior film, especially in terms of its structure. It's only an hour long, but several sub plots, humor, suspense, musical numbers, and a lot of heart are neatly compacted into that hour. Plus, it's refreshing to see a film of the period in which African American actors play characters who are lawyers, surgeons, company owners, and classical pianists and violinists. And, as Sergio points out above, entire essays could easily be written about the film's closing line.

  • Curtis Caesar John | January 18, 2013 10:59 AMReply

    That's a good look Sergio. I've only seen reference of 'Broken Strings' in Black movie docus and never had opportunity to watch the entire movie. Doesn't take much to research how extraordinary Clarence Muse was as a man, if not so much in the roles he chose/was forced to take, so all of you who haven't checked him out do so ASAP . I know I wish I could be there for this. Sounds like a fantastic program overall.

  • tolly devlin | January 17, 2013 6:04 PMReply

    Muse also had a prominent role in Larry Clark's independent jazz feature, the title of which escapes me right now, but I'm sure Sergio remembers it because it was one of those films which played the BlackLight Film Fest which he & another gentleman programmed.

  • sergio | February 18, 2013 6:58 PM

    Sorry just now seeing your comment. The film is Passing Through directed by Larry Clark and it will be shown this spring in Chicago when then the L.A. Rebellion film series comes to Chicago at the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. And I understand that Clark will be present for the screening of his film

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