The Blood of Jesus 1941
56 mins USA Director. Spencer Williams
Spencer Williams became one of the most important black filmmakers of the 1940s with this feverish melodrama, independently produced out of Texas with an amateur cast and a budget of $5,000. A fiery baptismal drama about a woman’s flirtation with the ways of Satan following a rendezvous at the Crossroads, The Blood of Jesus is an intense and provocative experience.
Something of an auteur, Williams wrote, produced, directed and starred in the film which struck an instant chord with black American audiences.
Its pungent power made it a hit with church audiences during the 1940s and its visually arresting imagery has inspired a generation of later black filmmakers, including Julie Dash and Spike Lee.
Thought lost for many years, the film was rediscovered in the 1980s, leading to its reappraisal by critics such as J. Hoberman of the Village Voice, who called it “a masterpiece of folk cinema that has scarcely lost its power to astonish.” It became the first ‘race’ film (an early form of black American cinema) to be added to the U.S. National Film Registry.