PARIS NOIR: AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE CITY OF LIGHT
Blue Lion Films is proud to present our one-hour documentary Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light. It is the most comprehensive and compelling documentary existing on the remarkable migration of pioneering African Americans to France and the impact both cultures had on each other.
Weaving stories and themes from World War I, the Jazz Age of the 1920s up to the German occupation of WWII, we have compiled a riveting document using rare photographs and stock footage, exciting period music, and stimulating commentary by leading experts.
Driven by the brutal segregation and limitations in the United States, Black American poets, writers, intellectuals, artists, musicians, and entertainers able to get to France were thrilled by their first feeling of absolute freedom. Here marks the beginning of the worldwide assertion of African American culture.
The much-decorated 369th Harlem Hellfighters Infantry Regiment and its sensational marching band introduced jazz to France. As their leader Lt. James Reese Europe said, “We won France by playing music which was ours and not a pale imitation of others.” Paris went wild for Le Jazz after the war.
Young Josephine Baker fired up French audiences because she “embodied this African past and a modern hip kind of Negro jazz musician in one person” yet she evolved into a stylish entertainer, decorated WWII French Résistance spy, and civil rights activist.
Artists were invited to display their works in prestigious art shows and galleries -- unthinkable in the US.
But while the African Americans were basking in their freedom, Afro-French colonial subjects found France far from a paradise. Links made in between Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes and Claude McKay and Négritude Movement founders Aimé Cesaire and Léopold Senghor and others combined to fight for expression of a Black identity that was “as strong, worthwhile and valuable as anything else in any other culture”.
Throughout this film, the social and racial politics of the vibrant African American and French cultures in the 1920s and 30s paints a fascinating backdrop. A short epilogue features post-WWII expatriates Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Sidney Bechet and others, and concludes with the situation of African Americans and Black French people in France today.
A Blue Lion Films release in partnership with Walking the Spirit Tours.
Duration: 60 minutes
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@Blue Lion Films, Inc., 2016. No part of this work may be copied or reproduced without permission.