Black Soldiers, Internationalism, and the Transformation of American Cinema
Rutgers University Press 2016
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in FilmNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Military HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network October 10, 2016 James P. Stancil II
Elizabeth Reich is an assistant professor of film studies at Connecticut College in New London. Militant Visions: Black Soldiers, Internationalism, and the Transformation of American Cinema (Rutgers University Press, 2016) examines how, from the 1940s to the 1970s, the cinematic figure of the black soldier helped change the ways American moviegoers saw black men, for the first time presenting African Americans as vital and integrated members of the nation. In the process, Elizabeth Reich reveals how the image of the proud and powerful African American serviceman was crafted by an unexpected alliance of government propagandists, civil rights activists, and black filmmakers.
Contextualizing the figure in a genealogy of black radicalism and internationalism, Reich shows the evolving images of black soldiers to be inherently transnational ones, shaped by the displacements of Diaspora, Third World revolutionary philosophy, and a legacy of black artistry and performance. Offering a nuanced reading of a figure that was simultaneously conservative and radical, Reich considers how the cinematic black soldier lent a human face to ongoing debates about racial integration, black internationalism, and American militarism. Militant Visions thus not only presents a new history of how American cinema represented race, but also demonstrates how film images helped to make history, shaping the progress of the civil rights movement itself.
In addition to this work, previously in 2015 Reich co-edited a special issue of Film Criticism, titled “New Approaches to Cinematic Identification,” which brings together works on one of Reich’s other primary interests: identification and film spectatorship. Reich’s own articles appear in Screen, African American Review, Film Criticism and Women and Performance, and she has a chapter forthcoming in Black Cinema Aesthetics, edited by Michael Gillespi and Akil Huston. She also serves on the editorial boards of Criticism and Film Criticism.
Reich is also currently at work on two new projects: co-editing a book collection on Afrofuturism, Justice In Time: Critical Afrofuturism and Black Freedom Struggles, and writing another monograph on global cinema, temporality and reparations, tentatively titled Reparative Time. In addition to her film studies scholarship, Reich is also a noted documentary director. Her feature-length documentaries include “Milton and Charlotte: A Baliwood Love Story” and “very Queer kids.”
James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.