Cinema Lumiere - Sala Scorsese > 16:45


Pierre Chenal
Introduced by

Edgardo Cozarinsky and Fernando Martín Peña


Monday 27/06/2016


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Pierre Chenal (born Cohen) came to Argentina at the end of 1942 after the free zone of France was invaded by the Nazis. With the help of Luis Saslavsky, who had seen his movies from the 1930s at Cine Arte in Buenos Aires, Chenal quickly settled into the Argentine film industry and made four films between 1943 and 1945. He returned to France in 1946, the same year American writer Richard Wright decided to emigrate.
When they met in Paris, they got the idea to put Wright’s novel Native Son (1940) on the screen. Its dramatic adaptation had been successful on stage under the direction of Orson Welles. (Chenal saw it in Buenos Aires with actor Narciso Ibáñez Menta performing in blackface).
Shooting the film in the United States was not possible and there was no interest in Europe. It was Chenal’s contacts from his period of exile that made the movie happen: the production company Argentina Sono Film and an independent Uruguayan producer. Some exterior shots taken in Chicago, just footage of the streets, created altercations with the white police and the people living in the ghetto who were reluctant to be filmed. The interiors were shot in Buenos Aires with actress Jean Wallace, who demonstrated courage by accepting the role during the blacklist period (Wright was a Communist Party sympathizer), and amateur black actors. The author of the novel played the part of Bigger Thomas, bringing an intense personal devotion to the role. Released in Argentina in 1951, the film was barely distributed in the United States, even after being cut by fourteen minutes by censors. The original version, which was screened at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, was considered lost until film historian Fernando Martín Peña found a 16mm print that made it possible for the Library of Congress to reconstruct the film.
Edgardo C. Krebs’s book Sangre negra. Breve historia de una película perdida (Festival de Mar del Plata 2015) recounts the film’s history, from its planning to its distribution misadventures, with documentation on racial laws in the U.S.

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal romanzo Native Son di Richard Wright. Scen.: Pierre Chenal. F.: Antonio Merayo. M.: Jorge Garate. Scgf.: Gori Muñoz. Mus.: Juan Ehlert. Int.: Richard Wright (Bigger Thomas), Jean Wallace (Mary Dalton), Gloria Madison (Bessie Mears), Nicholas Joy (Henry Dalton), George Rigaud (Farley, un reporter), Don Dean (Max), Willa Pearl Curtis (Mrs. Hannah Thomas), Ruth Robert (Helen Dalton), Charles Cane (detective Britten). Prod.: Jaime Prades per Argentina Sono Film S.A.C.I.. 35mm. D.: 104’. Bn.