Bushman. 1971. USA. Written and directed by David Schickele. With Schickele, Paul Eyam Nzie Okpokam, Elaine Featherstone, Jack Nance. New York premiere. 99 min.
“For a few days you are unable to think of anything else,” Il Cinema Ritrovato co-director Cecilia Cenciarelli rightly observes of this astonishing rediscovery by David Shickele, the younger brother of Peter (aka P.D.Q. Bach). Interweaving past and present (and the organ music of Henry Purcell’s Ground in C Minor with tribal chants and Yoruba percussion), Schickele’s film focuses on his friend Gabriel, who straddles two worlds with firm roots in neither. The young Nigerian, having escaped a bloody civil war back home—“entering its second year and no end is in sight”—finds himself adrift in a San Francisco riven by its own cultural antipathies and political violence. “With one eye on cinéma vérité, the European new waves and early Cassavetes, and the other on African pioneers like Sembène, Ecaré and Hondo,” Cenciarelli writes, “Schickele not only condemns the reactionary and racist America which will later frame Gabriel on the slightest of pretexts, but also the liberal America of progressive intellectuals who quote McLuhan and Malraux but lapse into rhetoric and misunderstand the deeper meaning of human experience. With irony, poetry and a delicate touch, Bushman leads us into the darkness of the beginnings of an odyssey.”
4K digital restoration by University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and The Film Foundation from the original negatives, funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. Additional support provided by Peter Conheim, Cinema Preservation Alliance; courtesy Milestone Films and Kino Lorber.
Concerto pour un exil (Concerto for an Exile). 1968. Ivory Coast/France. Directed by Desiré Ecaré. With Hervé Denis, Claudia Chazel, Henri Duparc. North American premiere. In French; English subtitles. 30 min.
The celebrated Ivorian filmmaker Desiré Ecaré made his directorial debut with this, the first of his comically barbed meditations on immigrant Black life in Paris, made improvisationally with a cast of nonprofessionals shortly after he had graduated from film school and staged a number of notable productions for Jean-Marie Serreau’s theater company Le Toucan (including Aimé Césare’s A Season in the Congo and Brecht’s The Exception and the Rule). As Ecaré would later observe, “I did not want to make an ethnographic film about exile. I wanted to speak about my generation. A generation which every day resists cultural assimilation and knows that it has no future in its own country. A disenchanted generation, but also a deeply cultured and courageous one.”
4K digital restoration by Argos Films in collaboration with the Institut Français’ Cinémathèque Afrique with funding by CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée; courtesy Tamasa Distribution.