The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is celebrating 73 years of Black excellence in film with the landmark exhibition, Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898 -1971. Painstakingly curated with never-before-shown footage and restored effects that had been lost to time, Regeneration showcases how Black filmmakers and performers have helped to define cinema in the United States since the birth of the movie industry and onward through the height of the civil rights movement.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Academy board member and exhibition adviser Ava DuVernay calls the exhibition "absolutely essential and quite extraordinary."
"This exhibition showcases the generations of Black artists whose shoulders we stand on, artists who defied society, who rebelled against norms and notions of who they could and should be," DuVernay said during a press conference at the museum. "Their very presence on film and behind the camera was an act of revolution, a cultural, political and emotional victory that has echoed through generations."
She continued, "The liberating news about Regeneration is that this is an exhibit about the miracle of deep love, the love of these pioneering Black filmmakers, the love that they had for their people, the love that Black audiences had for images of themselves, and the love for film that we all share — that goes for everyone in this room and beyond."
Jacqueline Stewart, who began her career at the Academy working on Regeneration and now serves as Director and President of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, said, "Opening this exhibition carries special meaning to me... At this museum, we honor the richness and complexity of movies by telling the many stories of cinema, telling these stories inclusively, vividly, and, in many ways, so that our audiences have many points of entry to a deeper understanding of the art of film."
From Aug. 22, 2022, to July 16, 2023, cinephiles can bask in this pioneering history on display. For general admission tickets, please click here.
What Is Regeneration: Black Cinema?
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures describes the exhibition as such:
"The exhibition explores the achievements and challenges of both independent production and the studio system, from cinema's infancy in the 1890s through the height of the civil rights movement. Regeneration features rarely seen excerpts of films restored by the Academy Film Archive, as well as other narrative films and documentaries, newsreels and home movies, photographs, scripts, drawings, costumes, equipment, posters, and historical materials, such as entrance tickets, note cards, and telegrams, along with augmented reality experiences (AR) designed specifically for the exhibition."
How to Visit
Located at: 6067 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Hours: The Academy Museum is open every day (excluding select holidays) from Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and from Friday to Saturday from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Inside the Collections
Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898 -1971 features seven galleries dedicated to reviving lost or forgotten films, filmmakers, and performers from the golden age of early Black cinema for a contemporary audience. The exhibition was co-curated by Doris Berger, Vice President of Curatorial Affairs at the Academy Museum, and Rhea Combs, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, with input from directors Charles Burnett and DuVernay, among others.
Some of these collections include:
"Something Good – Negro Kiss" (1898), is the first gallery guests will see when entering the exhibition. The gallery showcases clips from one of the earliest films depicting on-screen romance performed by Black actors.
"Race Films" focuses on materials from 1916 to the 1940s, highlighting social and political issues of the era and featuring footage of Black actors in early sound films ("soundies"), as well as stars working outside of the U.S., including a look at Josephine Baker's career in France. The exhibition also spotlights a dazzling array of vibrant movie posters from independent Black productions featuring all-Black casts that demonstrate the scale, range, and the genres of Black studio productions.
"Stars and Icons" recognizes Black performers in Hollywood from the 1920s to the 1950s. The gallery features over 50 glamour shots of top-billed stars and overlooked film legends, a large-scale display of never-seen-before costumes, and a deep dive into Hattie McDaniel's Gone with the Wind Oscar win and the complicated fame that plagued her later years. The exhibition also recognizes the Black artists who were involved with various civil rights movements, such as Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier.
"A Spotlight on Black Directors" pays homage to the creative and unique perspectives of five Black directors: Madeline Anderson, Robert L. Goodwin, William Greaves, Gordon Parks, and Melvin Van Peebles. The gallery further acknowledges independent films, documentaries, and other Hollywood productions that have impacted the landscape for current and future filmmakers of color.
In addition to the exhibition, Regeneration will also feature film screenings curated by Bernardo Rondeau, Senior Director of Film Programs and Black Film Archivist Maya Cade, which include world-premieres of a rediscovered lost film and newly restored films by the Academy Film Archive.
By Destiny Jackson