New collection of film posters celebrate black cinema

From notorious flapper Josephine Baker through to Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It and recent blockbusters like 12 Years a Slave, a new book recounts black cinema’s journey through 100 years of poster art.

1411741620812_wps_12_Separate_Cinema_by_John_DHundreds of images have been dug out from archives for Separate Cinema, which recounts the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the dawn of the twentieth century.

Insightful in-depth text accompanies chapters on blackface, apartheid, the influence of jazz, Blaxploitaion of the 1970s (stereotyped roles), documentary film and much more, right through to the present day.

A definitive history of black poster art, the book touches upon the vibrancy of the first black film auteur Oscar Micheaux and other remarkable works by independent pioneers.

The earliest film poster featured is for American silent movie The Birth of a Nation, from 1915. While it was a commercial success at the time, the film was highly controversial due to its portrayal of African American men, who were played by white actors in blackface.

Later, the tome revels in the 1920s to 30s jazz infused glory of controversial dancer Josephine Baker, while seminal films such as The Exile – which depicted an inter-racial couple – and Stormy Weather are profiled next to more contemporary classics like She’s Gotta Have It.

Recent Hollywood blockbusters like Monster’s Ball and The Butler feature, too.

The wealth of imagery is taken from the most extensive private holdings of African American film memorabilia in the world – The Separate Cinema Archive.

The archive contains more than 35,000 authentic film posters and photographs from more than 30 countries, maintained by its director John Kisch.

Despite black cinema’s Oscar success in recent years, Kisch believes there is still a paucity of representation.

Separate Cinema is released on October 6 for RRP £45 to coincide with the archive’s 40th anniversary. It represents some of the archive’s greatest posters published together for the first time.

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