Although the 1920s brought him acclaim as a stage actor and singer, Paul Robeson still had to prove himself as a viable screen performer. Mainstream avenues were limited, however, and his first two films, both silent, were made on the peripheries of the film business. Body and Soul (1925), directed by the legendary African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, is a direct critique of the power of the cloth, casting Robeson in dual roles as a jackleg preacher and a well-meaning inventor. Borderline (1930), the sole feature of British film theorist Kenneth Macpherson, boldly blends Eisensteinian montage and domestic melodrama, and features Robeson and his wife, Eslanda, as lovers caught up in a tangled web of interracial affairs. With these first independent works, Robeson revealed his stunning and expressive on-screen physical presence and laid the groundwork for what would become a history-making career.
Audio commentary for Body and Soul by Oscar Micheaux historian Pearl Bowser
Musical scores by jazz recording artists and composers Wycliffe Gordon (Body and Soul) and Courtney Pine (Borderline)