Evelyn Preer as Sylvia in 'Within Our Gates' (1919).jpeg
Evelyn Preer as Sylvia in 'Within Our Gates' (1919).jpeg
Within Our Gates (1920) Micheaux Book & Film Company

Presented by the Melbourne Cinémathèque

Within Our Gates

Oscar Micheaux | USA | 1920 | Unclassified (15+)
Virtual cinema

This event has ended and tickets are no longer available.


22–28 Nov 2021

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Sylvia, an educated African America woman, travels from the Deep South to the northern states in order to raise money for a school for poor black children, only to find herself involved in a web of gambling and crime that eventually forces the reveal of her own traumatic past.

Informed by Micheaux’s life as a labourer in Chicago, the film faced censorship and banning due to fears its portrayal of a lynching and an attempted rape would incite interracial violence amongst viewers. Idiosyncratic and unflinching, Within Our Gates is an important cinematic expression of African American life after World War I, as well as of Micheaux’s non-linear and ambiguous style, identified by modern-day cinematographer Arthur Jafa as “something equal to the aesthetic coherency of jazz”.

Micheaux’s groundbreaking film screens with two other silent films made by outsiders to mainstream American filmmaking. H2O, (Ralph Steiner, 1929) won it’s photographer-turned-director author the first prize in the non-dramatic category of Photoplay’s 1929 “amateur film’ competition. The short presents increasingly abstract images of water, eventually becoming a reflection on the properties of moving images themselves. Eaux d’artifice (Kenneth Anger, 1953) is masterful exercise in kinaesthetic experimental cinema by the original enfant terribles of the US avant garde. In it, a man adorned in 18th century women’s clothing makes his way through the beautiful Villa d’Este, its famous fountains filmed in double exposed close-ups or as silhouettes against the night sky. A clear nod to his first film Fireworks (1947) (the french term for fireworks is ‘feux d’artifice’), the film is arguably an antithesis to Anger's earlier work: instead of stewing in sexual repression, its fountains represent a celebration of the filmmaker’s homosexuality.

Andréas Giannopoulos and Jacob Agius, Melbourne Cinémathèque, committee member

Format: Digital
Language: English
Source: YouTube
Courtesy: Library of Congress
Runtime: 79 mins

Event duration

79 mins


Unclassified (15+)


The films in this program are available to watch on YouTube:

10 mins, Unrated 15+

Eaux d’artifice
12 mins, Unrated 15+

Within Our Gates
79 mins, Unclassified 15+

Accompanying feature

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