ISU Within Our Gates by Oscar Micheaux Discussion



Answer the prompt below in a ~750 word essay using proper citations.

Oscar Micheaux’s film Within Our Gates (1920) (Links to an external site.) is the oldest surviving film by an African American director. In many ways, Within Our Gates serves as a response to Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915), and as such it matched Griffith’s violence and drama. Like Griffith’s film, Micheaux’s tells the story of racial violence and discrimination, but from a radically different perspective and with much more complexity and nuance. It, too, features upsetting scenes of lynching and sexual violence in an attempt to show the truth of Black life in the United States. Jane Gaines’s essay Download Jane Gaines’s essayon the film provides background as well as analysis of the film. Her article details the circumstances under which Michaeux made the film, as well as the story of its suppression, censoring, eventual disappearance and archival resurfacing much later. I suggest you read Gaines’s essay first to prepare yourself for the film and its complex history.

Film: Oscar Micheaux, Within Our Gates (1920) (Links to an external site.)

Article: gaines fire and desire micheaux chapter (1)-1.pdf Download gaines fire and desire micheaux chapter (1)-1.pdfJane Gaines, “Fire and Desire”

  • Watch Within Our Gates(Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) And read Gaines’s article
  • Summarize what you learn about Micheaux, his film, its history and importance from Gaines’s article.
  • Select a scene from it to analyze:
    • Find a scene in which Micheaux uses cross-cutting as we saw in Birth of a Nation (and which we read about in Fabe’s chapter on Griffith).
    • Explain the intellectual, narrative and emotional effects of Micheaux’s cross cutting in the scene.
    • How does cross cutting help Micheaux produce make a point in his storytelling?



  • Watch ONE of the following films. (Library log in required). The Criterion Channel collection provides synopses and trailers for films, so you can shop for one that interests you.
  • Find and read an academic article or book chapter on the film (You will need to use the library – see below. Many journals and books are available electronically). Do not use a film review.
  • Write a response to the film (approx. 750 words) in which you:
    • Summarize what you learned about the film from the article.
    • Put the film into context with something that we learned this semester. For example: Discuss it in relationship to a movement or style (neorealism, new wave, postmodernism, etc.) or discuss elements of its style (mise en scene, cinematography, editing) and the effect on the viewer or story of that style. Use a particular scene or details from the film to make your case.
  • ATTACH the article you used to your assignment (upload the PDF of your answer and the article to the assignment on Carmen. You can upload multiple files). If you used a physical book that OSU does not have as an ebook, give a full Chicago style citation for the book. (Look at our citation guides)


Below each film is listed by director, title, year, country, and language(s). You can find trailers and descriptions, as well as the full film, at each link. You must log into the library to view them.

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