Monday, February 10, 2014

In Search Of The Underdog: Lionel Rogosin's "Come Back, Africa" And "Black Roots" Coming On DVD, Blu-Ray

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you'll recall that we ran an extensive two-part interview this summer (by Chairman Ralph) with Michael Rogosin, who's the son of the late, legendary underground filmmaking maverick, Lionel Rogosin.  As Michael mentioned during the interview, he's working hard to restore his father's cinematic legacy, and make it available again for whoever wants to explore the themes that his father so tirelessly championed.  More information will before forthcoming -- and, hopefully, a review of these releases -- but, suffice to say, if you have any interest in alternative stories that largely remain untapped, or untold, by those who wield the keys to the red carpet, and the box need to check these releases out! I look forward to seeing the fruits of this vision myself...the relevant info follows below.  --The Reckoner

Street date: February 25, 2014

“Heroic … a film of terrible beauty, of the ongoing life it captured and of the
spirit embodied by Rogosin and his fellow artists.” — Martin Scorsese
Milestone Films is proud to announce the deluxe DVD and Blu-Ray releases of Lionel Rogosin’s 1959 shattering classic Come Back, Africa. After witnessing fascism firsthand as a soldier in World War II, Rogosin vowed to fight it wherever and whenever he saw it reemerging. In an effort to expose “what people try to avoid seeing,” Rogosin travelled to South Africa and secretly filmed Come Back, Africa under the constant threat of being discovered. When released, the film revealed to the world the cruelty and injustice suffered by the black majority under apartheid.

Much of Come Back, Africa was filmed in Sophiatown, a black ghetto and a vibrant center of music, art, literature and politics. Residents included Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Father Trevor Huddleston, Hugh Masekela and four of the film’s main contributors – Drum Magazine’s author/journalists Bloke Modisane, Lewis N’kosi and Can Themba along with the already celebrated singer, Miriam Makeba. Even as they filmed, the township’s future was under threat. Shortly after production ended, Sophiatown was forcibly emptied, then razed and rebuilt as a whites-only suburb called Triumf.

In making Come Back, Africa, Rogosin’s goal was to reveal the harsh injustice of apartheid. To make a film that honestly and accurately portrayed life in Sophiatown (as he did with New York skid row inhabitants in his first film, On the Bowery), the filmmaker spent almost a year meeting with activists and writers, both black and white. Rogosin cast the film before writing the screenplay, basing the story on the experiences of the cast and crew. The actors created their own dialogue in order to create an authentic representation of their lives. Even 55 years later, the film seems emotionally raw and immediate.

Taking its name from the title of an African National Congress slogan, Come Back, Africa premiered at the 1960 Venice Film Festival where it won the Critics Award. In 2012, Milestone released the restored 35mm prints of Come Back, Africa across the US and Canada to rave reviews from the press and universal acclaim by the audience. Bonus features for the film include the remarkable An American in Sophiatown, a documentary by Lionel’s son, Michael Rogosin and Have You Seen Drum Recently?, by Jürgen Schadeberg, the renowned photographer/filmmaker who, as the staff photographer for Drum Magazine in the 1950s, took some the very first photographs of the young Nelson Mandela.

In the second feature of the deluxe set, Rogosin took the fight for equality to his homeland with his astonishing and powerful fourth feature Black Roots. The film, which is ripe for rediscovery, featured an extraordinary cast, including Reverend Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick; attorney and feminist activist Florynce "Flo" Kennedy; and musicians Jim Collier, Wende Smith, Larry Johnson and Reverend Gary Davis. All tell stories of heartbreak and despair while their songs blow the roof off the rafters. In an extension of the famed shebeen scenes in Come Back, Africa, the participants in Black Roots spoke openly about politics and race in a way that is still rarely seen on screen. In 1970, it was a radical and daring move by a great director. A deeply humanist film, Black Roots combines tales of oppression with hauntingly beautiful images of the faces of black men, women and children.

Lionel Rogosin’s group portrait of a handful of civil-rights activists, bluesmen, and gospel singers, including the great Rev. Gary Davis, has been all but unseen since its 1970 premiere — which makes its home-video debut as the B-side to Milestone’s terrific release of Rogosin’s Come Back, Africa a cause for celebration. Angry, vital, and compassionate, it’s a mosaic of spoken testimonies on the experience of segregation and racial exclusion, intercut with stirring musical performances—Davis’s “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” is a bone-chilling highlight—and rapid-fire close-ups of young African-Americans filmed on the fly in New York. “If I can’t live my life in freedom,” guitarist Jim Collier wails at one point with last-ditch urgency, “I’ll burn the whole thing up.” The movie’s final minutes take up that promise: stern young men stare the camera down, a child pumps his fist in the air, and “Purple Haze” blasts on the soundtrack. From roots to revolution. —Max Nelson, Film Comment


The home DVD and Blu-Ray of COME BACK, AFRICA:
The Films of Lionel Rogosin,Volume 2 is a two-disc boxed set featuring:

Disc One:
Come Back, Africa. South Africa. 1959, 86 minutes. Restoration Cineteca del Comune di Bologna. From the 2K Restoration. SDH subtitles.
A Martin Scorsese Introduction. 2 minutes.
An American in Sophiatown: The making of Come Back, Africa. Directed by Michael Rogosin & Lloyd Ross. 64 minutes.
Lionel Rogosin talks about Come Back, Africa. Radio Interview, 1978, 19 minutes.
Come Back, Africa. Theatrical Trailer. 2 minutes.

Disc Two:
Black Roots. United States. 1970, 63 minutes.
Restoration Cineteca del Comune di Bologna. From the 2K Restoration. SDH subtitles.
Bitter Sweet Stories. Directed by Michael Rogosin. 27 minutes. Color/B&W. Documentary on the making of Black Roots.
Have You Seen Drum Recently? Directed by Jürgen Schadeberg. 1989, 74 minutes.

Street: February 25, 2014

DVD UPC: 784148013343
DVD ISBN: 978-1-933920-53-5
DVD SRP: $34.95 Item # Mile00133

Blu-Ray UPC: 784148013350
Blu-Ray ISBN: 978-1-933920-54-2
Blue-Ray SRP: $39.95 Item # MileBD00133



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