Distributed by Films Media Group, PO Box 2053, Princeton, New Jersey 08543-2053; 800-257-5126
Produced by Films for the Humanities & Sciences
Directed by Bruce R. Schwartz
VHS, color, 57 min. (two tapes)
Sr. High - Adult
African American Studies, American Studies, Biography, Film Studies, Literature, Poetry, Popular Culture, Writing
Reviewed by Brad Eden, Ph.D., Head, Web and Digitization Services, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
This two-volume video (v. 1 Langston Hughes: his life and times, and v. 2 Langston Hughes: Salvation) is the result of a sabbatical by award-winning filmmaker Bruce R. Schwartz.
In Volume 1 Schwartz interviews two well-known Langston scholars: Arnold Rampersad, Langston's biographer, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alice Walker. The two Scholars discuss Hughes's life and career, especially his early life. Hughes was born February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His early life was affected by his parent's divorce; life in Cleveland, Mexico, and Lawrence, Kansas; and living first with his grandmother and then his aunt and uncle in Lawrence.
Volume 2 is a dramatic presentation of a chapter from Hughes's autobiography The Big Sea. In this chapter, which Schwartz has brought to film, Hughes relates how his aunt made him go to church in order to bring him to Jesus, and how this event in his life resulted in a moral crisis that shaped his future. Hughes's writing describes how his anticipation of the event changed to disillusionment and confusion when pressured to be true to himself, or fulfilling the expectations of others. It is a powerful reenactment of a scene from the life of the man who many call one of the founders of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930's and 1940's.
Langston Hughes is considered by many to be the first real African-American writer. This two-volume film is a powerful retelling of his life, and the drama taken from his autobiography is especially well done by Schwartz. Having lived in Lawrence, Kansas, I remember how proud that town is of Hughes. He spent time at the libraries in both Lawrence and Topeka, and his love of nature that appears in his writings was developed during his boyhood in Lawrence. This film is a tribute and wonderful introduction for readers and admirers of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance.