This lyrical, visionary film disappeared for four decades after it’s creator died suddenly (at the untimely age of age 42) following the film’s completion, robbing generations of a talented, vibrant new voice in African American cinema. Cane River is available now for the first time in forty+ years in a brand-new, state-of-the-art 4k restoration; SPACE & Indigo Arts Alliance are thrilled to be bringing the film for a free community screening in Portland on February 17th.
Written, produced, and directed by Emmy Award-winning documentarian, Horace B. Jenkins, and crafted by an entirely African American cast and crew, Cane River (1982) is a racially-charged love story in Natchitoches Parish, a “free community of color” in Louisiana. The story follows Peter (Richard Romain), a brash former football player and aspiring writer, as he returns to his hometown in rural Louisiana and strikes up a relationship with the spirited Maria (Tommye Myrick), despite the disapproval of her family. Their Romeo and Juliet-esque affair lays bare the long-festering tensions between light-skinned, property-owning Creoles and the more disenfranchised, darker-skinned families descended from slaves.
Infused with poetic feeling for the local flavor of its setting, this luminous Black pastoral—the only feature directed by Horace Jenkins before his untimely death —addresses thorny issues of colorism, the legacy of slavery, and African-American land loss with a deft, deceptively light touch.
This new digital version and restoration after the copy’s rediscovery was underwritten by IndieCollect and the HBJ Legacy Foundation with grants from the Roger & Chaz Ebert Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Amistad Research Center at Tulane University. The revival of this movie represents a unique collaboration between the Academy Film Archive and IndieCollect. In 2013, the Academy’s Documentary Curator Ed Carter found the film’s original negative in the vault of DuArt Film & Video and provided a safe home at the Academy Film Archive.
When the 4K version premiered in New York at the Museum of Modern Art’s “To Save and Project” film festival in 2019, Richard Brody in The New Yorker celebrated, “Its rediscovery plants another missing beacon in the history of cinema…. a major rediscovery.”