Dutchman (1966) 55 mins

Dutchman (1966) is the 55 mins film adaptation of Armri Baraka’s shocking one-act stageplay, first presented at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City in March, 1964. It won the Obie Award for best off-Broadway play, putting Baraka, who was actively contributing to five other plays at the time, into the public limelight. Actors: Shirley Knight, Al Freeman Jr., Frank Lieberman, Robert Calvert, Howard Bennett. Director: Anthony Harvey

He was still in his Bohemian phase but would the following year divorce his white (Jewish) wife, move to Harlem, and change his name from LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka indicating his new Black Nationalist leanings. Dutchman, written just before this move, is a transitional piece. It carries elements of the dadaist poetry of his Bohemian stage, anti-racist sentiments, and the radical black consciousness-raising that would characterize much of his later work.

Dutchman is an emotionally charged and highly symbolic version of the Adam and Eve story. The emotionally taut, intellectual verbal fencing between Clay (the black Adam) and Lula (a white Eve) spirals irrevocably to the symbolic act of violence that will apparently repeat itself over and over again. Baraka’s screenplay is one of mythical proportions, a ritual drama that has a sociological purpose: to galvanize his audience into revolutionary action.

Al Freeman and Shirley Knight in the film version of Leroi Jones’ off-Broadway play Dutchman (1967).

Dutchman initially played to primarily white audiences, until Baraka moved it to a Harlem theatre that he founded in order to reach, and to educate, his intended audience of the black bourgeoisie. Ironically, the Harlem audiences labelled it a ‘white-hating’ drama and the play closed in Harlem due to lack of revenue. But Baraka was now fully established as a roaring literary lion, and he continued his mission of consciousness raising through a prolific output of drama, poetry, essays, and political activity.

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5 comments On Dutchman (1966) 55 mins

  • Didn’t I send u this on DVD?

  • i liked the writing of “dutchman”s screenplay, the play its based on, more than the way it was acted. the play reminds me of an odd conversation between strangers that ends in tragedy in edward albee’s “the zoo story.” but “the zoo story” is in central park, not on a train, and there’s no race difference but a socio-economic class difference, and the sexual tension in “the zoo story” is gay as opposed to staright sexual tension in “dutchamn.” still similarities abound.i think the woman acts too crazy, needs to be more subtle so not to scare or put off the black man, and the guy acts too passive, could be at times more assertive and definitely doubt and suspect this loony white lady who is very weird and loud, alot more than he does. i think she overpowers him with an unconvincing put-on act. but nevertheless i think its an important film for bringing up a powerful, honest point of view regarding racism, and this was very new for its time. hance it got attention at an italian film festival. were it not for this film and things like “a raisin in the sun,” “the defiant ones,” directors like spike lee would have never come about. its my opinion that spike lee’s “do the right thing” is the strongest motion picture about racism to have ever come out.

    i wrote a comment to a guy on youtube who goes by the username “blogofboakye” in which i said how dismayed i am that there hasnt been a stronger movie about racism since “do the right thing,” 1989. and he told me that no one’s interested in seeing black thought, vision, movement on film. i disagree. i think that cinema today has a general, overall lack of vision regardless of race, and directors sell out to an audience that has low standards due to the terrible films that come out each year, mindless blockbusters. even spike lee, who did “the huey p. newton story” and “malcolm x” can nowadays be seen selling out, doing lame uninspired hollywood bs thats not rue to himself. he let his vision die and became complacent. this is a crime. steven spielberg, martin scorcese and many others, such as werner herzog, have sold out most heinously to the lowest common denominator of the deadly stupid audience. an audience that has gone soft and lost its judgement and taste needs to be re-educated with a new, tougher breed of film.i think an artist can create a demand for his/her art by making something truly new and groundbreaking that works on all levels, i mean direction, screenwriting, acting, cinematography, music, the works. the reason that “do the right thing” got critical acclaim is that it is as powerful visually as it is thematically, the acting and writing tight and intense, the music, everything working like a well-oiled machine. it rivals stanley kubrick’s “the shining” and “a clockwork orange” in its use of vivid sharp color cinematography. its larger than life. i am certain that more, even awesomer, more inspiring motion pictures like “do the right thing” are indeed possible. it just takes balls and a vigorous imagination. and i think that films like “dutchmamn” should be seen and discussed by as many people as possible, for avoiding the subject of racial tension and grievances doesn’t make it go away. serious issues like these must be tackled head-on in film and in life if we are to get to the bottom of it. i personally find racism to be a subject for a psychological horror film, since prejudice is evil and horror films should make us hate and fear evil by showing what wretched catastrophe they can bring to our society.i also must add that the music of the film “dutchman” is most Mysterious, dark and tense. i want to use it as a homage in a horror film that nods at amiri baraka recalling the music of his filmic adaptation as well as similar themes and racial tensions, a harsh critique of modern society.

    • Now that’s not what I said on YouTube at all. What I said to you, and I quote, is “If nobody wants to buy the creative output of black writers and artists, how do you expect there to be more films in the cinema dealing with the kinds of issues that you long for?” It’s a question that applies equally to independent news and information sites like this. You want me to put 10-minute clips of the entire Dutchman film on YouTube, diverting money from the pockets of writer Amiri Baraka and the filmmakers to pass on to YouTube (and Google) who make enough billions already. Well, I refuse. This is as good as it gets. Like I said to you before, the Dutchman movie is available to buy on Amazon. If you don’t support black cinema, who will?

      • I would buy a copy of this film in a minute if I had the $200 they are asking on Amazon. My old vhs copy is trashed from so many classroom viewings and so far I haven’t been able to replace it. Just the same, posting the film on line me “sell” about 20 copies of the play every other year, so it profits Baraka to post it. Personally, I think the play is far more exciting than the video, any video, so this is an important aid.

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