Virtual Screening Room: Native Son



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1951 • dir Pierre Chenal w/Richard Wright, Jean Wallace, Nicholas Joy • 108 min

One of the most controversial novels of its day, Richard Wright’s Native Son (first published in 1940) exposed the injustices of urban African-American life, witnessed through the eyes of Bigger Thomas, whose violent tendencies and moral confusion were the natural result of a lifetime of deprivation. In prison for murder and sentenced to death, Thomas reflects on the circumstances that led to his fate. This new restoration of the 1951 film version of the novel features Richard Wright himself in the lead role of Bigger Thomas.

When it was initially released in the U.S., NATIVE SON was heavily censored by regional censor boards wherever it played and was rarely, if ever, screened in its entirety. In order to create this, the most complete version ever shown in the United States, a 16mm print of the original Argentinian release and an incomplete 35mm negative of the uncensored cut had to be combined.

Presented by KinoLorber in association with the Library of Congress, Fernando Martin Peña, and Argentina Sono Film. Special thanks to Edgardo Krebs for his years of research into the making of NATIVE SON, and for being a tireless champion of its restoration and re-release.

The film is preceded by a special introduction by film historians Eddie Muller (TCM’s Noir Alley, Film Noir Foundation) and Jacqueline Stewart (TCM host and co-curator of Kino Lorber’s Pioneers of African-American Cinema collection), courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.

“Genuine noir… an essential and previously missing link in mid-20th-century cinema.”
– Eddie Muller, Film Comment