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1951, Argentina Sono Films, 91 min, USA/Argentina, Dir: Pierre Chenal

Richard Wright’s 1940 novel, Native Son, was a literary sensation when first published, providing African-Americans with a startlingly symbolic narrative and powerful new voice. A film version, however, was impossible, as the story delved into deep-seated fears - on the part of both blacks and whites - that American movies were not prepared to face. South America, however, had no such qualms, and in 1951 expatriate Frenchman Pierre Chenal and Argentine producer Jaime Prades set about adapting the harrowing tale, with Buenos Aires standing in for Chicago. It is equal parts noir thriller and social commentary, depicting the existential and societal pressures faced by a black man trying to survive in a culture dominated by whites. Starring Wright himself as Bigger Thomas! NOT ON DVD!

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