My Song Goes Forth

with Charles Musser
Monday, May 5, 2003 - 12:00pm

Recently restored My Song Goes Forth (Jospeph Best, 1936) is shown in a beautiful 35mm archival print. The film is a documentary about South Africa which takes place as apartheid is being imposed. Paul Robeson sings the title song and adds a prologue in which he asks viewers to interpret the remainder of the film against the producer's intentions. Professor Charles Musser, filmmaker and professor at Yale University and author of numerous books on cinema studies and history, will introduce and discuss the documentary.

According to Musser, "My Song Goes Forth was one of Robeson's numerous attempts to shape the representations of Africa and Africans on the screen in the 1930s. It comes after the actor appeared in Zoltan Korda's Sanders of the River (1935) and was made during the period he worked on Song of Freedom (1936), and King Solomon's Mines (1937)--fiction films that are set, at least in part, in Africa. Paul Robeson had an active interest and involvement in documentary filmmaking, beginning with My Song Goes Forth, more than a decade after his first appearance in fiction filmmaking. Although his trajectory through nonfiction cinema reached a high point five years later as the narrator for Leo Hurwitz and Paul Strand's Native Land (1942), he continued to lend his voice to documentaries such as People's Congressman (1948) and Song of the River (1953)."