The Black Experience from LA Auteurs

By Donna Mungen
January 1, 1994

Screening program notes from Scratching the Belly of the Beast catalogue, 1994

As Los Angeles became the center of the film world, it was only natural that interested African Americans would eventually migrate to this developing industry. However, during the formative years of American cinema, the involvement of L.A.-based Blacks was restricted to brief appearances in front of the camera and marginal service jobs as maids or on clean-up crews at the various studios. The conception and production of films hardly touched the daily lives of most Black Angelenos, due to a lack of training, little or no access to technology, and the impoverishcd economics of the Black community in general, whieh inhibited the raising of start-up capital.

However, beginning in the mid-1920s, a few Blacks began to produce and direct films in the Los Angeles area. For the mainstream Hollywood community, this small Black cottage industry was virtually invisible and unknown.

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