The Black Kino Fist: Black life as depicted in film history

Sounder (1972)

"Sounder received warm reviews and almost universal praise as a welcome antidote to the contemporaneous wave of black films, most of which were considered low quality, low budget and exploitative. The film’s sensitive, intelligent depiction of a loving family was hailed as a banner accomplishment for black filmmakers and audiences. A Sep 1972 DV article proclaimed that the picture had been “for good or ill, singled out to test whether the black audience will respond to serious films about the black experience rather than the ‘super black’ exploitation features.” As noted in the Washington Post review, despite popular skepticism that the film could be a financial success and the belief that “the black film market is exclusively an action and exploitation market,” the picture was a major box-office success. 
Despite the acclaim, however, some detractors emerged. Vincent Canby wrote in NYT that Sounder ’s appeal derived more from its superiority to most “black” films than from its inherent excellence, and called it patronizing. Another writer published an article in the 12 Nov 1972 issue of NYT lambasting the film for its lack of realism, stating that “blacks still know too little about each other…while white filmmakers are laughing their heads off all the way to the bank.” Elder wrote a letter to the editor countering both critiques, stating that the characters were based on people he knew, and labeling Canby’s tone “condescending hauteur.” Other reviewers felt that the film was overly simplistic and sentimentalized, while the New Watts Awakening critic stated: 'While Sounder no doubt is a milestone, much of its effect is diluted by keeping the action detached and isolated in its historical setting.'"
- American Film Institute 
Status: Available for purchase
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