5 Silent Movies By And About Non-White People

Oh my God…it’s too hot…forgive me for not being my usual witty, raconteur self (what do you mean? Yes I am) but it’s just too hot to think.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the silent film era consisted entirely of Hollywood flappers and prat-falling comedians, but you’re WRONG! Not that I don’t love those films too, but there’s more you may not have seen.

Raja Harishchandra (1913)

This is officially India’s first feature length film. The footage starts with a bit of info about director Dadasaheb Phalke (D.G. Phalke) including scenes of him directing, before launching into the legend of a king, a wise man, and loads of sacrifices.

Within Our Gates (1920)

Oscar Micheaux is considered to be the first African American feature film director. Within Our Gates is a massively important film because it looks at life for the black American in times of lynching and other atrocities, leading you to question how far we have really come, making it the perfect antithesis to D W Griffith’s Birth of a Nation.

A Page of Madness (1926)

This film is beautiful insanity, quite literally. A man goes looking for his wife in an asylum, and…you know, I’m not too sure as there are no intertitles, but it’s really worth watching.

It was made by an artist collective called The Shinkankakuha (or School of New Perceptions). No one else knew of it’s existence until it was found in a warehouse in 1971.

The Goddess (1934)

Wait, you say, 1934?! The Chinese film industry transitioned to sound a lot later than other countries, thus actress Ruan Lingyu, known in Western parts as ‘The Chinese Garbo,’ remained silent for much of her career. Sadly she committed suicide at only 24.

Written and directed by Wu Yonggang, this tale of a prostitute trying to raise her son was his directorial debut.

Barsoum Looks For A Job (1923)

This Egyptian comic short is the epitome of independent film making, as director Mohamed Bayoumi did pretty much everything but star in it. Aside from being a simple story of friends competing for jobs amidst comic misunderstandings, it’s interesting for having a Christian actor play a Muslim and Muslim actor playing a Christian. I think he was making a point there about tolerance.

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