As its title suggests, A Century of Black Cinema examines the history of African-American performers in the movies. It provides a good overview, with dozens of film clips and some new interviews supplying historical perspective. Originally divided into two segments, SnagFilms presents the documentary in its entirety, with limited commercial interruptions, and it's embedded below for your viewing pleasure.
Directed by Ted Newsom, A Century of Black Cinema is more of a breezy summary than a probing examination. It touches on the early all-black "race films," the severely-limited, stereotypical roles that dominated the 30s and 40s (and continue into today), and stars such as the Nicholas Brothers, Paul Robeson, Dorothy Dandridge, Sidney Poitier, Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Richard Pryor, and Denzel Washington. Attention is also paid to blaxpoitation titles of the 70s and some of the big box office hits of the 80s and 90s, like Lethal Weapon and Waiting to Exhale.
Made more than a decade ago, A Century of Black Cinema itself now stands as a milepost, especially during the week leading up to the Academy Awards on Sunday. Dorothy Dandridge is acknowledged as the first African-American nominee, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. is shown winning his Academy Award. This year, Viola Davis and Taraji P. Hensen were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress. But how much progress has really been made?