Festival International du Film Panafricain Cannes 2017
Harlem, Bare Bones, Nevada Women’s, Ethnografilm Paris, Tulsa
The overlooked story of Oklahoma’s historically all-black communities.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, black communities led an effort to establish an all-black state in what would become Oklahoma. Granted 1.5 million acres, these pioneers founded all-black towns throughout the territory, but the dream of a sovereign state quickly faded, and, within a few generations, many of the communities were absorbed into larger cities. Barber’s project reviews this fascinating history while profiling residents of some of the few remaining towns as they struggle to hold on to self-determination and their heritage in the face of encroachment in various forms. While tackling an important and sadly largely unknown topic, the doc is unfortunately very roughly made, juggling too many subjects in too brief a running time – not all of them particularly directly relevant or essential to the larger story – and awkwardly including its narrator on camera, literally reading from the script in front of him.