In 1913, Bert Williams, the premier black performer of his day, made a silent film in the Bronx, N.Y., with an entirely black cast. It didn't see the light of day until 2014, after the Museum of Modern Art found the film in its archives, printed and premiered it.
“Lime Kiln Club Field Day” will have had only a few showings in New York and San Francisco before it will be seen in a free showing at the Bromeley Family Theater. It will be shown at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 with a traditional silent film accompanist, Donald Sosin, providing the soundtrack.
The film is part of Pitt-Bradford's Black History Month activities and made possible by a Year of the Humanities Grant from the University of Pittsburgh. The film will show Feb. 10 at the Pittsburgh campus.
Dr. Joshua Groffman, assistant professor of music at Pitt-Bradford, became aware of the film through his friend Sosin.
“Donnie was involved with this historic project, and it was just too good a fit with Black History Month and the Year of the Humanities focus on 'being human' to pass up a chance to do a screening here,” Groffman said. “Add into the bargain that it's a hilarious movie.”
“Lime Kiln Club Field Day” is the story of three suitors pursuing a local beauty and features scenes of everyday middle-class African-American life - something not usually depicted in film at the time - including a joyous “cake walk” dance and an on-screen kiss. The normal life presented in the film was a deliberate response to the negative depiction of blacks in movies like “The Birth of a Nation,” which had been released in 1911.
Sosin is one of the only composers in the United States creating music for silent movies and has been the house pianist at the Museum of the Moving Image for 20 years. He has also accompanied movies at major film festivals and museums, including MoMA (where he was a staff accompanist for five years), the Whitney Museum and the Guggenheim Museum.
“He's a rock star in the world of silent film, an enormously talented performer and composer, and he has a way of making silent film seem very contemporary and relevant,” Groffman said. “To be able to see the film done on the big screen in Bromeley with live music will be a really special experience.”
As part of Sosin's visit, he will speak to students in Groffman's Music in Film course as well as Dr. Kevin Ewert's Modern Black Theater class.
For disability needs related to the show, contact the Office of Disability Resources and Service at Pitt-Bradford at 814-362-7609 or firstname.lastname@example.org.