What’s the border between ‘unseen’ and ‘underseen’? As a canister of images and a time capsule of the eyes that saw them get into the can, David Schickele’s Bushman (1971) exists on this spectrum of availability—mostly underseen in its time, mostly unseen in ours. But these visual designations are also a part of the film’s interests and strategies: what places and people get seen, underseen, ignored? And how does time unsee them, even before posterity enters the picture? Under Schickele’s playful direction spanning the space between fiction and reality, David Myers’ careful black-and-white photography, and a central performance from Paul Eyam Nzie Okpokam at once light and deadly serious, Bushman centers a San Francisco and seventies from an exile’s eyes. Under the care of a new restoration from Kino Lorber and Milestone Film and Video, we’re thankfully invited to re-see the underseen. 

Here’s the synopsis: “In 1968, Peace Corps veteran David Schickele enlisted his friend Paul Eyam Nzie Okpokam to star in a light-hearted comedy about the adventures of a well-educated Nigerian immigrant in San Francisco. Using a docu-fictional style reminiscent of Cassavetes’ Shadows, the film observes the foibles of late 1960s African-American culture with an outsider’s incisive eye. The result is a vibrant snapshot of the nation’s racial politics, from interracial romance to cross-cultural misunderstandings and countercultural joy. The film morphs into a documentary when the director’s voice abruptly intrudes to narrate its star’s enraging fate: Okpokam was accused of a crime he did not commit and was thrown in prison before being expelled from the country.”

Bushman has been restored by the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and The Film Foundation. Funding was provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, with additional support provided by Peter Conheim, Cinema Preservation Alliance. Bushman will play January 15th at the Museum of Modern Art as part of the museum’s annual To Save and Project festival before opening February 2nd at BAM.

See the trailer below:

No more articles