Oscilloscope Laboratories announced this past week that the Milestone Films release of The Films of Lionel Rogosin, Volume II: Come Back, Africa/Black Roots will be released on both DVD and Blu-ray as double-disc product offerings on Feb. 4.
Born of privilege, educated at Yale, a World War II vet and secure with a future in the family business, Lionel Rogosin became, instead, a social commentary filmmaker and legendary arthouse exhibitor.
His first film, On the Bowery, (1956) received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary and he seemed to be on his way.
For his next project he came up with a slight-of-hand deception and headed to South Africa to do a documentary on Apartheid. It was 1959 and such a topic for a film project could land him in prison … or worse.
So instead he did a government sanctioned film on the music of South Africa, which was nothing more than an excuse to film as much as he could in Sophiatown … included in his final product — which was an improvised dramatic tale featuring local artists — was a performance featuring future Grammy-winner and radical activist Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba (married for a time to none other than Stokely Carmichael).
The film, Come Back, Africa, went on to win the Critics Award, Venice Film Festival … it was, of course, banned in South Africa. As a side note, he would use the film’s prestigious debut at the Venice Film Festival as an excuse to get Makeba out of the country (once the cat was out of the bag her passport was revoked and she was not able to return to South Africa until 1990).
Upon his return to the United Stated Rogosin acquired the famed Bleecker Street Cinema and spent the next 14 years showcasing the early works of such auteurs as Miloš Forman, Robert Downey, Sr. and Francis Ford Coppola.
Towards the end of this period (1970) he did Black Roots, a documentary (really a gathering) on the black experience for musicians in the United States. The film, unseen in many years, is making its domestic DVD and Blu-ray debut as part of this package.
Bonus features include an introduction by Martin Scorsese, a vintage interview with filmmaker Lionel Rogosin, his son, Michael Rogosin’s 2007 feature-length documentary, An American in Sophiatown, and the short film, Bitter Sweet Stories.
To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report: DVD & Blu-ray Release Report