This week we talk about perhaps one of the most exciting periods in film history, 1918-1928. This is right before the emergence of sound, and a period where filmmakers around the world were taking bold and innovative steps in the art of filmmaking. We will look at the emergence of African American filmmaking during this time, specifically Oscar Micheaux, and the parallels with the Russians who come soon after in thinking about film as a political medium that could be used to advance the agenda of oppressed people.

Before the introduction of sound, and a larger money making industry, a flurry of activity and creativity could be seen on screen.

Click here for the slides for this week’s lecture

Some films we discuss this week below.


Dr. Caligari, Krauss, 1919

La Roue, Abel Gance, 1923 — innovations in cutting and symbolism

Metropolis, Lange, 1927

The General, Keaton (1926)

A Page of Madness, Kinugasa, 1926

A Page of Madness (狂った一頁 Kurutta Ippēji or Kurutta Ichipeiji) is a silent film by Japanese film director Teinosuke Kinugasa, made in 1926. It was lost for forty-five years until being rediscovered by Kinugasa in his storehouse in 1971. The film is the product of an avant-garde group of artists in Japan known as the Shinkankakuha (or School of New Perceptions) who tried to overcome naturalistic representation.
Yasunari Kawabata, who would win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, was credited on the film with the original story. He is often cited as the film’s screenwriter, and a version of the scenario is printed in his complete works, but the scenario is now considered a collaboration between Kawabata, Kinugasa, Banko Sawada, and Minoru Inuzuka.

The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928

The Passion of Joan of Arc (French: La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc) is a silent film produced in France in 1928. It is based on the actual record of the trial of Joan of Arc. The film was directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and stars Renée Jeanne Falconetti. It is widely regarded as a landmark of cinema, especially for its production, Dreyer’s direction and Falconetti’s performance, which has been described as being among the finest in cinema history.…

The Crowd, King Vidor, 1928

Oscar Micheaux, “Body and Soul” 1925

Oscar Micheaux, Lying Lips 1939

Oscar Micheaux, Murder in Harlem 1935

Nanook of the North, Robert J. Flaherty, 1919


Read more about SUNRISE

Sunrise review, Roger Ebert