The great Paul Robeson, the American stage star and activist who briefly became a big figure in British cinema, made his film debut in this key work from pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. One of a number of ‘race’ films produced for America’s segregated southern audiences, Body and Soul features an all-black cast, led by Robeson in a twin role as both a scheming convict posing as a reverend, attempting to swindle his congregation of their offerings, and his long-lost twin brother. The themes of morality and civility that run through the film are typical tropes of the race film, but Micheaux’s film has a potent force enhanced by Robeson’s undoubted star charisma.
Micheaux’s original cut was nine-reels long, but he was forced to cut footage after complaints about the story’s supposed sacrilegious elements. The five-reel version is the one that survives today.
This digital restoration is presented here with a new score by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky.