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Directed by Spencer Williams

United States 1941 57 mins. In English

Spencer Williams, following the example of his precursor Oscar Micheaux, worked on several race films through the 1940s and 1950s, the most well-known of which is his first film and masterpiece, The Blood of Jesus. Working with a meager $5,000 budget, Williams crafted a wholly compelling tale of an atheist, Ras (Williams himself), who accidentally shoots his newly-baptised wife, Martha (Cathryn Caviness). Martha, caught at the crossroads between Heaven and Hell, goes through a series of afterlife tests, coming across the Devil, nightclub owners, jazz bands, and the mob. Featuring spiritual songs by Reverend R.L. Robinson’s Heavenly Choir, the film was added to the National Film Registry in 1991 and cited by Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust) as a profound influence on her work. “Among the most spiritually adventurous movies ever made. [It] conveyed the moral crisis of the urban/country, blues/spiritual musical dichotomies through [its] documentary style and fable-like narrative.”—Armond White.

The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.