Paul Robeson: “I’m a Negro. I’m an American.”
Anthology Film Archives32 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Newly restored 1989 documentary by East German film director Kurt Tetzlaff
4K restoration by the DEFA Foundation in Berlin, Germany, with new English subtitles by the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Co-presented with the DEFA Film Library and Anthology Film Archives.
This 1989 documentary—made by East German film director Kurt Tetzlaff, and newly restored by the DEFA Foundation—is a cinematic homage to the African-American singer, actor, and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898-1976). The film tells his story in non-chronological order, using a compilation of materials: rarely shown historic footage, photographs of the U.S. civil rights movement, speeches, performances, and visits to East Germany and the Soviet Union. Interviews with Paul Robeson Jr., Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger, and Harry Belafonte give insight into the courageous life of a true Renaissance man. Co-produced by the GDR’s DEFA Studio for Documentary Film and the West Berlin production company Chronos, with scenes shot in the U.S., the film reflects the efforts by East German officials to present Robeson—often referred to as a “voice of the other America” —as a poster child for GDR solidarity with the U.S. civil rights movement.
From any perspective, the film stands as an elegant, revealing, and powerful portrait of a towering figure in American culture, society, and politics. Revisiting episodes in Robeson’s life, drawing attention to his performances and writings, and confronting the virulent racism and anti-communism he faced in the U.S., Paul Robeson: “I’m a Negro. I’m an American” documents the life of a groundbreaking artist whose courage, tenacity, and passion remain profoundly inspiring.
The screening on Saturday, September 23, 6:45pm will be introduced by Professor Mariana Ivanova, Academic Director of the DEFA Film Library.