Racial and sexual tensions ratchet up between a black man and a white woman as they ride on the New York subway in this 60s classic. Based on LeRoi Jones's award-winning 1964 play, this rarely seen two-hander still has the power to shock.
As they play a game of cat and mouse, the characters’ increasingly cutting dialogue spews out uncomfortable ideas about civil rights, black power and white supremacy. Described at the time as being 'full of hatred' by some critics, Clay (Alan Freeman Jr) seems meek and liberal at first but goaded by Lula's (Shirley Harris) psychotic ranting he finally retaliates with devastating consequences. Clay's transformation from a respectable member of the black bourgeoisie into an educated revolutionary displays what was considered to be the only two options available for black people in white America.
Film historian Donald Bogle described Freeman as ‘the movies’ best black spokesman on militancy and intellectualised hostility’. Knight won a best actress award at Cannes for her performance as Lula, the predatory female. Despite Dutchman being his directorial debut, director Anthony Harvey (The Lion in Winter) elicits career-defining performances from his brave leads, Shirley Knight and Al Freeman Jr, while John Barry’s score adds another dimension to the highly-charged drama.
- With an introduction from writer/curator Karen Alexander
Presented on a 35mm Print from the BFI. This event is presented by Autograph ABP as part of the Black Atlantic Cinema Club, a season of rarely seen contemporary films and archive classics inviting you to explore rich and different possibilities through which to view the African Diaspora experience of transatlantic culture. With thanks to writer/curator Karen Alexander. Supported by the BFI's Programme Development Funds from the National Lottery.