Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New PBS documentary features Eugene Bullard biographer

UGA Press author Craig Lloyd, author of the biography EUGENE BULLARD, BLACK EXPATRIATE IN JAZZ-AGE PARIS is featured in a new PBS documentary, Harlem in Montmartre, directed by Dante James and inspired by a book of the same title by William A. Shack. Harlem in Montmartre, part of the Great Performances series, will air Wednesday, August 26th at 8 pm in most markets.

Lloyd speaks in the film about Bullard, who was the first African American fighter pilot; like many African Americans, he stayed on in Europe after WWI rather than return to the harsh realities of segregation and racism in America. In Paris, the Georgia native was a professional boxer, musician and club manager, and at one point operated out of his club as a French spy against Germany. Harlem in Montmartre highlights Bullard’s role as an entrepreneur and facilitator for fellow African-Americans in Paris. The documentary focuses on music and performance, and even found a bit of footage of Bullard playing drums that Lloyd didn’t know existed.

In addition to Bullard, the documentary captures the music and lives of figures such as James Reese Europe, Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, Bricktop, and Django Reinhardt. According to producer Margaret Smilow, Harlem in Montmartre “explores a fascinating, yet often neglected, era in African-American cultural history. It is a colorful, musical, poignant look at the contributions of a select group of black Americans, without whom the collective voice of jazz music around the world would sound entirely different.”