Within Our Gates


Drama / Romance

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled48%
IMDb Rating6.4103186

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Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN

Top cast

720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
675.19 MB
English 2.0
24 fps
1 hr 13 min
P/S 4 / 1
1.23 GB
English 2.0
24 fps
1 hr 13 min
P/S 4 / 3

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Art-227 / 10

Oscar Micheaux directed and wrote this powerful story about racial prejudice and its consequences.

I was deeply affected by parts of this story about the plight of negroes as told for negroes by negro director Oscar Micheaux. Ostensibly, it's about a woman who tries to help a poor southern school for negroes by getting financial help to supplement the meager amount the state provides, but it is laced with observations about racial prejudice. One bigoted southern woman living in the north is against the women's suffrage movement for fear that negro women will get the right to vote. And she expresses her negative sentiment about educating negroes: "Thinking will give them a headache." Micheaux gets more points across in the best part of the film, the flashback scene near the end prefaced with a title card "Sylvia's Story." We see how a negro preacher agrees with some condescending whites that the negroes should keep their place, but privately condemns himself for doing so, announcing that "negroes and whites are equal" to himself. We see how injustice reigns with a lynch mob and how the innocent, even an innocent bystander, can easily become victims of racial prejudice. The film is worth seeing for this sequence alone, providing images that caused me to lose some sleep. Micheaux also slips in comments about the negroes' accomplishments in the Spanish-American and Mexican wars and WWI, as if to bolster the low self-image of his negro viewers. The film may be primitive by some standards, but Oscar Micheaux tells a powerful story.

The film was intended for negro audiences, but because of some controversial parts (rape and lynching) many exhibitors refused to show it, so very few saw it when it was released. This being the earliest surviving film made by an African American, it was placed on the National Film Registry and lovingly restored from the only surviving copy in Spain (see the alternative version listing for details). The Library of Congress is to be commended for doing such a fine job.

Reviewed by gbill-748778 / 10

Priceless expression of the African-American experience in 1920

Thought to have vanished until a single Spanish copy was found in the 1970's, it's a miracle this movie still exists, and it's the oldest surviving film made by an African-American director. That in and of itself makes it very special. It belongs to the genre referred to as 'race films' – movies made by African-Americans for African-American audiences between 1915 and 1950 – the vast majority of which are sadly no longer with us.

I'll say up front that the movie is a little scattered, and the acting is mediocre at best – but viewers need to realize this was par for the course for movies in 1920, and this is a rare film from the period that actually has something to say. One of Micheaux's messages is that African-Americans need to be educated and to be allowed to vote in order to rise and have any real power in a country dominated by whites – a country that he still believed in despite its racism, that African-Americans had recently fought for in WWI (albeit in segregated troops),and one he points out they were never immigrants in.

In the film there are whites who want to help, and quite generously, and there are also whites who want to keep African-Americans in their place, rationalizing that this will keep them happier, that they have no capacity for anything other than field work. The thought of women's suffrage (which would finally pass into law later in the year the film was released) is repellant to one white woman because she fears African-American women would also have the right to vote. Even more notoriously, there is a mob of whites who lynch a black family, as well as one who attempts rape in scenes which are both powerful and absolutely harrowing. Micheaux shows us the cruel injustice of what were common practices, an ugly part of our history that is hard to acknowledge even today. When the film was released, it was highly controversial for those scenes, and banned or edited in some places.

What I was a little surprised by was Micheaux also showing us the negative effects of several African-Americans on their own culture – there is a gambler and thief known as "The Leech", a preacher who urges his congregation to be happy with their place in life because the country belongs to the white man and Heaven will be their reward instead, and a servant who incites whites with misinformation. The latter two endure humiliation with a smile, and Micheaux gets across the point that these variations of 'Uncle Tom' are selfish, helpful to themselves in the short term, but harmful to the culture. I took it as a brilliant call for strength and unity.

Micheaux can't help himself in giving some of the characters what they deserve, examples of which are the actual killer for the murder being pinned on an African-American being shot in the hunt, and a little African-American boy escaping the lynching on horseback. While artistically some of these seem questionable, in this case they're probably necessary, because the film would have been far too depressing otherwise.

Silent movies from this time period are often hard to watch, they come across as quaint and dated, and the filmmaking seems amateurish by today's standards. 'Within Our Gates' is certainly flawed, but it's a priceless expression of the African-American experience in 1920, and should be seen.

Reviewed by MartinHafer8 / 10

Amazingly high quality film for its time

So often, Black-American cinema during the 1920s-40s is second-rate due to their exceptionally tiny budgets. While Hollywood had an abundance of money, films designed for Black audiences were generally made on shoe-string budgets with low production values. Despite this disadvantage, this early film (according to the video jacket, the oldest known Black-produced film) actually has a very contemporary look--on par with many of the mainstream movies of the day.

The film is the story about a woman who has a sordid past--just exactly what that is you only learn towards the end. The way the film is made, it APPEARS she is a woman of loose morals, though this is deceiving. This woman, despite her baggage, really is a very decent person--dedicated to educating poor Black children in the South. She spends much of the film working with these people and then leaving the school to head up North to find finances for the failing school. Late in the film, the sordid past is revealed. Exactly what it is you'll have to see for yourself, but it includes lynchings and illegitimacy--some pretty racy stuff for the time.

The film has a very strong message to encourage Black-Americans to become educated to earn self-respect and their piece of the American dream. The "good" main characters are exceptionally loyal and patriotic citizens and from time to time they are contrasted with Blacks who are less ambitious and worthless (such as the sellout preacher). Because of this, the film offers some excellent insight into the psyche of the Black community and their aspirations. This is truly an important film historically and pretty compelling viewing.

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