Juke: Passages from the Films of Spencer Williams

Directed by Thom Andersen

The Blood of Jesus

Directed by Spencer Williams
  • Juke: Passages from the Films of Spencer Williams

    Directed by Thom Andersen.
    US, 2015, DCP, black & white, 30 min.
    DCP source: filmmaker

Commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art to make a work about pioneering African-American director, producer and occasional actor Spencer Williams (1893-1963), Andersen turned to Williams' films as director, assembling major and minor moments into a portrait of the everyday in Black America of the 1940s.  "I am not trying to make some new meaning from these films; I am striving to bring out the meanings that are there but obscured by the plot lines: the dignity of black life and the creation of dynamic culture in the segregated society in small-town north Texas. I regard my movie as akin to Walker Evans’ photographs of sharecroppers’ home in 1930s and George Orwell’s essays on English working class interiors." 

  • The Blood of Jesus

    Directed by Spencer Williams.
    With Cathryn Caviness, Spencer Williams, Juanita Riley.
    US, 1941, 35mm, black & white, 57 min.
    Print source: Southern Methodist University

The directorial debut of Spencer Williams was also the major, most influential film of his entire career, The Blood of Jesus. A Biblical fantasy about a dead woman's soul caught between Heaven and Hell, The Blood of Jesus is also a fascinating document about faith and the everyday struggles of African-Americans during the WWII era.  Despite its shoestring budget and cast of mostly nonprofessional actors, this independent production of Williams' own company Amnegro was a huge commercial success and one of the most popular race films of the period. 

Part of program

Read more

Thom Andersen,
Film Essayist

Current and upcoming programs