MoMA Presents

Oscar Micheaux’s Ten Minutes to Live

Dec 11–26, 2020


Ten Minutes to Live. 1932. USA. Directed by Oscar Micheaux. The Museum of Modern Art Film Stills Archive

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“A motion picture stealthily operating as an interactive double-murder-mystery dinner show, Ten Minutes to Livewith its elliptical formations and incessant gazing—compels its audience viscerally past the fourth wall. Viewers enter a shape-shifting musical VR-like experience wherein narrative entry points are illusive and layers of spectatorship are blurred. Immersed in sensorial tension, participants traverse zigzagging tonalities, temporalities, and nonlinear filmmaking ranging from deliciously dreamy to alarmingly abrupt. A magnificently rebellious writer, director, producer, and distributor, Oscar Micheaux functioned by both necessity and strategy outside Hollywood’s segregated studio system. Raw, obsessive, personal, and subverting mainstream rules, his films impart an ambitious African American auteur’s observations while making meaning from a virulent Jim Crow world.

Nuances of African American culture, economics, politics, rhythm, and sensibility are inscribed within the music, dance, and design of Ten Minutes to Live, a window into 1930s urbane Blackness in all its sensual maneuvering, performative attitude, and agitated splendor. Wearing its aspirations, bravado, and underfunding on its sleeve, Ten Minutes showcases: stilted acting, compromised sound, beguiling music, trickster casting, continuity gaffes, swing-band swagger, campy combat choreography, ferociously fashionable Harlemites, resilient Black heroines, alarming blackface, stunning cityscape tracking shots, wooden dialogue-dubbing, enjambed flashbacks/-forwards, mesmerizing tap sequences providing caesuras between plot-points—and abundant suspenseful glancing.”

–Lisa Collins, excerpted from Among Others: Blackness at MoMA, 2019

Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film.

  • This film series is part of MoMA Presents.

    Film at MoMA is made possible by CHANEL.

    Additional support is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by Debra and Leon D. Black and by Steven Tisch, with major contributions from The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.


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