Sunday, April 15, 2018


In 1958 my late husband Ed Bland and three friends and colleagues made a semi-documentary film they called THE CRY OF JAZZ. This film marked the first time American blacks directly challenged whites about white supremacy and the racist culture in the United States. So committed were the people who worked on the film that some 65 people gave their time and talents freely. First released in 1959, the 34-minute film ignited controversy wherever it was shown. In 2010, Anthology Film Archives received a grant from the Martin Scorsese Film Foundation to preserve the film. It was transferred from the original 16mm to 35mm and selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Over the years, the film has been shown widely in university film departments and film festivals. Now, for the first time, an authorized, updated version is available in high-definition digital format. Bonus features include two in-depth commentaries by Ed about the making of the film.

In 1971, Willard Van Dyle, pioneer American documentary filmmaker and then Curator of Films at New York's Museum of Modern Art, called the CRY "The most prophetic film ever made . . . [because] it predicted the riots of the '69s and '70s and gave the basis for them."

In the film, Ed used the musical structure of jazz as a metaphor for black life in the United States. The film is a milestone in filmmaking by black Americans. It was far ahead of its time in 1959 and is more timely than ever now. Ed Bland directed the film and co-wrote and co-produced it.

Writing about the film, journalist Matt Rogers said: "Relying on dozens of volunteers to pull it off, the short—shot on 16mm for a cost of roughly $3500 and first screened in '59—is a monumental literal and figurative black-and-white dialectic that uses jazz as both lens and springboard for interpreting America's past, present, and future ills (and possibilities.) Black life is seen as a reflection of jazz and jazz as a reflection of Black life, all broken down by Black men who are not only their white peers' equals but clearly are schoolin' them. The blunt, didactic style pushes a jungle-fever tinged (hey, kickin' that knowledge is sexy!) history lesson that not only peeks into ghetto life on Chicago’s South Side—from the streets to the church to the pool halls and jazz clubs—but also presages, among many things, the popularity of rock and roll, the rapturous embrace of jazz by other countries, the American race riots of the late '60s, as well as, believe it or not, the evolution of hip-hop. True, no rappers, but the science of the loop is heard in full effect. Not to mention the rare live footage of Bland's friend, Le Sun Ra and his Arkestra, featured throughout."

No comments: