Acclaimed filmmaker, former professor Michael Roemer returns to Yale
This weekend, the Yale Film Archive will showcase two films by former Yale professor and award-winning filmmaker, Michael Roemer.
Courtesy of Yale University
Acclaimed filmmaker and former professor Michael Roemer will return to Yale on Saturday for the screening of two of his original narrative feature films.
“Vengeance is Mine” and “The Plot Against Harry,” released in 1984 and 1989, respectively, will be featured on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. as a part of the ongoing series “Treasures of the Yale Film Archive” in partnership with the Whitney Humanities Center.
“I treasure the opportunity of bringing the supremely underrated Michael Roemer to campus,” Carlos Valladares GRD ’25, a doctoral student who helped organize the screening, told the News.
A Jewish man born in Berlin in 1928, Roemer was forced to flee to the United Kingdom in 1939 via Kindertransport. He attended a British school for refugee children before moving to the United States to attend Harvard University in 1945.
After receiving his bachelor’s in English in 1949, Roemer worked in the film industry before releasing his debut narrative feature in 1964 “Nothing But A Man,” which won three awards at the Venice Film Festival.
“His best known film, ‘Nothing But A Man’ (1964), is an insightful drama about an African American railway worker and a school teacher whose love he struggles to accept. The film … is seen as one of the finest, most perceptive films of its era to tell an African American story,” Brian Meacham, a film archivist at the Yale Film Archive, wrote to the News.
The Washington Post described the film as “devastatingly powerful,” and “one of the most sensitive films about Black life ever made in this country.”
Roemer then composed the comedy “The Plot Against Harry” in 1969, but did not publish it until 1989. The film follows Harry Plotnick, a Jewish man recently released from prison, as he returns to his old neighborhood.
“Michael Roemer grasps the soul of the films he makes and those he watches,” Dudley Andrew, professor emeritus of comparative literature and film studies at Yale who worked alongside Roemer, wrote to the News.
In 1984, Roemer produced a film for the American Playhouse PBS series, “Vengeance is Mine,” which Valladares described as a “really strange melodrama about a lost woman who’s trying to find a new family for herself after her actual one abandons her.”
Brooke Adams, the lead actress in “Vengeance is Mine,” will be joining Roemer on Saturday to speak about the film.
From the early 1970s up to his retirement in 2017, Roemer was a prized member of Yale’s faculty.
“I listen intently to his every word, because it’s clear he listens to others that way and then says only what counts,” Andrew said. “Yale undergraduates have been lucky to learn from him a deep ‘cinema sensibility’ worth more than the technology and techniques they originally thought were the point of film classes.”
The screening of Roemer’s films will take place in the screening room of the Humanities Quadrangle.