The Measure of a Man

Michael Roemer, Yonkers, NY

Sensing a possibility for escape with each other–she from her rigid preacher father and he from a rootless life working with a section gang laying railroad track–newly met Josie (Abbey Lincoln) and Duff (Ivan Dixon), become newlyweds.  She sees a spark in him (“Most of the men around here are kind of sad.  I thought you might be different.”), and in her serene beauty and confident, straight-forward manner, he sees a chance for family and stability.

Michael Roemer’s great 1964 film, “Nothing But A Man,” details without sentimentality African-American life in small-town Alabama in the early 60s.  And how the rancid culture of racism, manifested in large issues–workplace abuses–and (not so) small–the relentless humiliation of grown black men called “boy” by the local whites–makes a simple, normal life together almost out of reach for Josie and Duff.

Shot in the style of the great photojournalism of the period, the naturalism of cinematographer/co-writer Robert Young’s stunning black and white images belie their complicated beauty.  Each close-up is a true portrait, each landscape and interior roots the viewer in a sense of place.

“Nothing But A Man”opens today at Film Forum for a one-week run.  Director Michael Roemer will introduce his film at tonight’s 7:30 pm show with Q&A to follow.  Kazembe Balagun, Director of Education and Outreach at the Brecht Forum, will introduce the film on Saturday, November 10, at 3:10 pm.

Robert Young, NYC

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