Song of Freedom

1936 British film / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Song of Freedom is a 1936 British film directed by J. Elder Wills and starring Paul Robeson.

Quick facts: Song of Freedom, Directed by, Screenplay by, ... ā–¼
Song of Freedom
Directed byJ. Elder Wills
Screenplay byIngram D'Abbes
Fenn Hill Sherie
Based onThe Kingdom of Zinga
by Claude Wallace
& Dorothy Holloway
Produced byH. Fraser Passmore
StarringPaul Robeson
Elisabeth Welch
George Mozart
Esme Percy
CinematographyEric Cross
T.A. Glover
Harry Rose
Edited byArthur Tavares
Music byEric Ansell
Jack Beaver
Distributed byBritish Lion Films
Release date
  • 17 August 1936 (1936-08-17) (UK)
Running time
70 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
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Two of the film's pivotal elements are the character of an opera composer, Gabriel Donizetti, presumably suggested by historical opera composer Gaetano Donizetti; and a medallion identifying Robeson's character as a descendant of an African monarch.

Song of Freedom may have been the opportunity Robeson was looking for to (in his words) "give a true picture of many aspects of the life of the coloured man in the West. Hitherto on the screen, he has been characterized or presented only as a comedy character... This film shows him as a real man."[citation needed][dubious ] He was also given final-cut approval, an unprecedented option for an actor of any race.

As in Sanders of the River, the film called for documentary scenes of West African traditional dances and ceremonies.

Robeson plays Zinga, a black dockworker in England with a great bass-baritone singing voice. He is discovered by an opera impresario and becomes an international star. Yet he feels alienated from his African past, and out of place in England. By chance, he is informed that an ancestral medallion he wears proves his lineage to African kings, and he leaves fame and fortune behind to take his rightful place of royalty. Reunited with his people, he plans to improve their lives by combining Western technology with the best of African tradition.

Although the film was not a success in the US, it was notably chosen in 1950 to open the convention of Ghana's Convention People's Party. The ceremonies were presided over by the future first prime minister of independent Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, Robeson's friend from his London years.