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 JesusDirected 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.