Bushman opens with the stark facts “1968: Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and Bobby Hutton are among the recent dead. In Nigeria, the Civil War is entering its second year with no end in sight” over images from both continents. This proximity of tragedy and civil unrest in both America and Africa is at the heart of David Schickele’s extraordinary debut which sets up a thoughtful, poetic and provocative dialogue between the two continents.
Schiekele spent two years in Nigeria with the USA Peace Corp where he met Paul Eyam Nzie Opokam. When Opokam came to America in 1968, Schiekele wanted to make a film of his Nigerian friend’s experience teaching at San Francisco State College. A docudrama of Okpokam’s experience, Bushman tells the story of Gabriel, a young Nigerian who comes to America for the first time, settles in the Bay Area and attends San Francisco State College. The film provides a unique African reflection on Black west coast life amid the racial frictions at the end of the tumultuous sixties. He is seen through the twin prisms of American racism and exoticism. But the film turns on astonishing real-life events as Okpokam is falsely accused of terrorism during events at the San Francisco State College strike of that year.
The restoration of Bushman, like Melvin van Peebles Story of the Three Day Pass which we screened in 2021 goes to the heart of Cinema Rediscovered: a largely unknown film which seen now makes you rethink and want to find out more about the film’s context and impact.
A Milestone Film & Video/Kino Lorber release. Restored in 4K from the original negatives by the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive and The Film Foundation. Restoration was carried out by Corpus Fluxus at Illuminate Hollywood (picture restoration), Audio Mechanics (sound restoration) and at Fotokem laboratory and completed in 2022. Funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. Additional support provided by Peter Conheim, Cinema Preservation Alliance.