HARLEM THEATRE (1968) is a ninety-minute documentary that was made for German television by filmmaker Klaus Wildenhahn. The movie, filmed just after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., follows Harlem’s New Lafayette Theatre members as they rehearse for their upcoming season and run politically radical workshops in the community.
Founded by actor-director Robert Macbeth, the New Lafayette Theatre was a significant institution within the Black Power Movement. Ed Bullins, the theatre’s playwright-in-residence was the Black Panther’s Minister of Culture. In addition to recording the theatre’s workshops, the movie contains street interviews with Harlem’s residents, and scenes from the Black Panther fundraising event held at Fillmore East for Eldridge Cleaver.
The movie is a powerful political and historical document that speaks to today’s concerns regarding justice for black people, police brutality, and the instrumentality of art to bring about change. Today’s renewed interest in the Black Panthers also makes the film timely. To the best of my knowledge the film has never screened publicly outside of Central Europe. (16MM, B/W, English Language)
Here is a clip from HARLEM THEATRE in which Robert Macbeth discusses Black theatre as a subversive force.
This clip was transferred by a collector from a print of the film that has since been lost/destroyed. The only known of surviving ninety minute, English language print of HARLEM THEATRE exists in an archive. If you would like to find out more about this film please email me. Continue reading