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Belcourt - Nashville's Nonprofit Cinema


PRICE*: $10 ($8 members) | VIEWING WINDOW: 3 days
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One of the most controversial novels of its day, Richard Wright's Native Son (first published in 1940) exposed the injustices of urban African-American life, witnessed through the eyes of Bigger Thomas, whose violent tendencies and moral confusion were the natural result of a lifetime of deprivation. In prison for murder and sentenced to death, Thomas reflects on the circumstances that led to his fate.

Kino Lorber presents a new restoration of the 1951 film version of the novel, directed by Pierre Chenal and starring Richard Wright as Bigger Thomas, presented in association with the Library of Congress, Fernando Martín Peña and Argentina Sono Film. Special thanks to Edgardo Krebs for years of research into the making of NATIVE SON and for being a tireless champion of its restoration and re-release.

The film is preceded by a special introduction by film historians Eddie Muller (Film Noir Foundation) and Jacqueline Najima Stewart (co-curator of Kino Lorber's Pioneers of African-American Cinema collection), courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.

About the Restoration: Upon initial release in the U.S., NATIVE SON was heavily censored by regional state/municipal censor boards where it played. A complete 16mm print of the original Argentinian release and an incomplete 35mm duplicate negative of the uncensored cut were combined for the current restoration, the most complete version of NATIVE SON ever shown in the United States.

“NATIVE SON is genuine noir in its moral ambiguity and existential despair. It’s fascinating to see all the genre conventions and stylistic flourishes we associate with noir being brought to bear in a racially charged drama about African-Americans — made contemporaneously with the classic noir era in Hollywood. The recovery of this film gives us an essential and previously missing link in mid-20th-century cinema.”  —Eddie Muller, Film Comment

“More than 60 years since it opened in Buenos Aires with great success, NATIVE SON is still known as this other film: the crippled version, created by censors and disastrous reviews. Together, they have sealed the fate of this effort. The uncut film, however, and the history behind it, are far richer than people realize, and deserve a second (or, to be more accurate, first) look.” —Edgardo C. Krebs, Film Comment

“...Wright and his book also received criticism from the Black community (James Baldwin famously denounced it) for serving up what it saw as caricatures and providing a story that tapped in the worst fears of whites. And while it is valuable to read the book and watch the film knowing the criticism, it is also important to respect Wright's own experiences and how he translated them into literature and film… There’s a raw power in the point of view it shares.” —Beth Accomando, KPBS

The Belcourt Theatre does not provide advisories about subject matter or potential triggering content, as sensitivities vary from person to person.

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