Song of Freedom Screening at the Phoenix Cinema

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Our first film screening of 2012 was held in conjunction with the Phoenix Cinema. We screened the film ‘Song of Freedom’ on Sunday 15th January 2012. An amazing 154 people attended the screening and it was good to see a mixed crowd and young people with their parents in the audience.

Song of Freedom (1936) was described by its star, American actor Paul Robeson, as the first “to give a true picture of many aspects of the life of the coloured man in the west.” Robeson shines as London-born docker John Zinga, who becomes a world famous opera singer, then discovers he is descended from a West African tribe. Having spent his life dreaming of visiting Africa, he travels to the island to meet his people, who treat him with hostility. Can he get them to trust him?

In spite of its improbable plot and stereotypical depiction of Africans which we found hilarious, Song of Freedom is a landmark film within the history of British cinema. It acknowledges the Black presence in 1930s England, and it shows that it was possible for a black man to be born in Britain. In addition, John and his wife Ruth played by Elizabeth Welch, have a normal relationship and their on screen kiss was the first time a black couple kissed on screen. Ruth is also portrayed as a loving and intelligent wife, whilst American films at this time were depicting black women as caricatured, desexualised mammies or maids.

Following the screening, we welcomed historian of Black British Film, Stephen Bourne, for a discussion about this film. The discussion was very interesting and intelligent were asked by both the adults and the children who attended.

I would like to thank Eleanor Sier and the Phoenix Cinema family for organising this screening.

By Charmaine Simpson

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About blackhistorystudies

Black History Studies is a social enterprise company which operates in the interest of the community by offering courses and events in Adult Education. We aim to empower the African and Caribbean community and enable them to develop self knowledge and identity through Black History and Culture. Black History Studies aim to provide a wide range of courses and activities which will provide people with the opportunity to pursue their interest in Black History and Black Studies. We also aim to provide high quality courses and activities that can be accessed by all within the community. Our mission is to inform, inspire and empower people through Black History and Black Studies by educating the community to educate themselves thereby creating a self-sustaining learning circle. Black History Studies is dedicated to providing you with a high quality and professional service and can offer services such as: - Bespoke services for Secondary Schools - Black History and Black Studies Presentations - Black History Course for Families - 5 week short courses on Black History - Beginners and Advanced Black Studies Courses - Weekend courses on Black History and Black Studies - Museum Tours - Film Screenings - Black History Studies Presentations for hire
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