Regeneration: Free films you don't want to miss

Updated Feb 23, 2024

Museum Happenings
Roaring round-up of song-studded thrills! Herbert Jeffrey

Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898 – 1971 honors the legacy of African American filmmakers and actors from the dawn of cinema, through the golden age, and into the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement. Inspired by and named after an independent 1923 all-Black-cast movie, Regeneration seeks to revive lost or forgotten films, filmmakers, and performers for a contemporary audience.

Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898 – 1971 is organized by the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. 

Throughout the run of the show, the Detroit Film Theatre will be featuring a companion series of films from the era screened in our historic theatre. Admission is free for all.

*With an accompanying music performance before or during the show.

Hellbound Train

Hellbound Train was made as part of a Christian evangelist mission to spread messages of morality and personal responsibility to Black communities, and was presented at churches, schools, and tent revival meetings throughout the South.

Shot on 16mm film with an all-Black cast, the train ride is conducted by Satan who entices passengers with jazz music, gambling, and adultery. 

A figure dressed as the devil in black and white

(USA/1930—directed by James Gist and Eloyce Gist)

A man and a woman sit on the grass together in nice clothes.

(USA/1925—directed by Oscar Micheaux)

Body and Soul*

Oscar Micheaux’s silent feature Body and Soul depicts Reverend Isaiah Jenkins, an escaped prisoner masquerading as a clergyman in a rural Georgia church to exploit the most vulnerable members.

Presented with a live musical score composed and performed by Rodney Whitaker. 

Ten Minutes to Live*

Micheaux’s earliest surviving sound film is set in the Club Libya, a Harlem cabaret modeled on the iconic Cotton Club popular with Black artists in the late 1920s and early 1930s. 

Based on three unpublished short stories by Micheaux, Ten Minutes to Live cast real-life Cotton Club musicians as extras and preserves on its soundtrack Micheaux shouting “cut!” a beat before a scene ended. 

A man sitting on a bus in a coat, suit and hat

(USA/1932-directed by Oscar Micheaux)

A shadowed figure holds their hands up towards a ladder in the sky

(USA/1941—directed by Spencer Williams)  

The Blood of Jesus

Williams’ first feature, The Blood of Jesus, is a singular work that draws from two very different traditions: Southern Baptist spirituality, and the surreal imagery of silent Expressionist films. Cathryn Caviness plays a young woman who suffers a personal tragedy and dreams she is suspended between life and death, at the crossroads of heaven and hell.

DFT fans receive a printed version of the program each season in their mailbox. Didn't get one? Download the Winter brochure featuring the rest of the Regeneration lineup here.