ALL AGES SCREENING
“Toto, we’re not in Harlem anymore.” From its title to its end credits, The Wiz overturns the context and meaning of L. Frank Baum’s classic American children’s book and reveals the cultural flipside of a Hollywood golden oldie by cinematic sleight of hand. A newcomer to the musical genre, director Sidney Lumet was inspired and supported by an illustrious all-Black cast and diverse production crew whose professional chops transformed his modest “valentine to New York” into, to quote an online fan review, “a before-its-time creative big-budget musical African American Epic.” The Wiz’s original release divided audiences and critics alike for predictable (and depressing) reasons, which Janelle Harris confirmed on its 40th anniversary: “So here came The Wiz with all of its pageantry and jubilation, and America just couldn’t digest all of that Black joy.” Screw the haters, let’s dance.
“Sidney Lumet’s spectacular, joyous production of The Wiz generates a mood of wonder and sentimental rapture … When the lyric spirit starts moving expect dancing in the aisles, dancing in the lobby, and dancing in the streets … At the moment the film’s commercial potential is being underrated, and perhaps The Wiz will need to overcome special kinds of prejudice and sales resistance before attracting the mass audience it deserves.” Gary Arnold, The Washington Post, 1978
“I see the whole movie now in a way I couldn’t when I was a child. I still dance, I still sing, but I’m proud of the beauty of Blackness and the legacy of a movie that, like the people who created it, can’t help but be great.”
Janelle Harris, Elle, 2018
133 min. DCP
Programmed by Michèle Smith