An innovator in nonfiction filmmaking, a tireless advocate for justice who traveled the world in its cause, and a champion of alternative cinema in his role as the founder of New York’s Bleecker Street Cinema, Lionel Rogosin was a dynamo of activity and against-the-grain enterprise who fought tirelessly for people and artworks that had little other support or attention. After making his feature debut with On the Bowery (1956), a docufiction portrait of Skid Row NYC that’s like the missing link between Italian neorealism and cinéma vérité, Rogosin reeled off a series of extraordinary films that took him from South Africa to the Deep South, looking and listening as he did to the faces of the unseen and the voices of the voiceless. Too often Rogosin’s filmography is reduced to his debut and his anti-apartheid follow-up Come Back, Africa (1959), but now it can be viewed nearly complete, in its variety, vitality, and moral courage.
Rogosin's anecdotal tale of drunks and day-laborers progresses in a wavering amble, starring nonprofessionals who lived the parts that they played.
With Come Back, Africa, Rogosin took the docufiction style of On the Bowery to c. 1959 Johannesburg.
Rogosin self-distributed his plea for pacifism in hopes of encouraging young men to resist the draft and the war.
The first in Rogosin’s trilogy of films on American race relations, followed by Black Fantasy and Woodcutters of the Deep South.
Rogosin’s final film comprises a spirited debate between the Palestinian poet Rashed Hussein and Israeli intellectual Amos Kenan.