Virtual Cinema: A Summer in “Cane River” July 19, 2020

“Cane River is a work of visionary artistry and progressive imagination.” New Yorker

Virtual Cinema’s “Soul of a Nation” series presents “Cane River,” a rediscovered masterwork directed by Horace B. Jenkins (1941–1982). In the racially charged love story, a college graduate returns to his rural Louisiana hometown and meets a young woman who is eager to leave. Their romance exposes tensions between two very different black communities.

After you’ve seen “Cane River,” tune in on Tuesday, July 28, at 7 p.m. for a livestream conversation between Houston music icon Bun B and Sacha Jenkins, the director’s son. Head to the Houston Cinema Arts Society on YouTube for the free discussion.

Sacha Jenkins is a music journalist and filmmaker who was just a boy at the time “Cane River” was filmed. Here, he remembers the summer of 1981, when he was with his father during the making of this acclaimed film. 

Sacha Jenkins

I went down to New Orleans to stay with my dad, Horace Byrd Jenkins III, one summer. I was 10 years old. Rick James and Teena Marie owned the radio waves—“Square Biz” all day, with Teena rapping in the middle of the jam.

My dad was filming Cane River—his first and only narrative feature—when I was visiting. I remember eating juicy burgers at the Blue Plate. The jukebox would always play “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals, which I thought was cool because it name-checked New Orleans and I was right there! I remember riding a black Huffy bicycle with no GPS or plan—a time when kids wandered and wondered and didn’t think twice about swashbuckling.

My dad’s girlfriend, who was from New Orleans, turned him on to the Cane River region and the stories that floated about for centuries. He became fascinated with the region and its history, already familiar with the idea of “Creole” culture because my mom is from Haiti. He was also fluent in French and well-versed in exploring black folks and our history through his documentary films.

I didn’t see Cane River until recently. Horace passed away after a heart attack before the film was properly released. Life goes on. People move on. And here we are in 2020. Thanks to IndieCollect and Oscilloscope Laboratories, Cane River finally had a theatrical release.

• See the Trailer
Get a preview of Cane River.
Watch the Film 
Cane River streams July 22–August 30. Your purchase ($12) supports the MFAH and provides a three-day pass to the film.
Check out the Discussion
Sacha Jenkins and Bun B talk about Cane River on Tuesday, July 28, at 7 p.m. Presented by the MFAH and Houston Cinema Arts Society.

Underwriting for the MFAH film department is provided by Tenaris and the Vaughn Foundation.

Generous funding is provided by The Consulate General of Israel Houston; Nina and Michael Zilkha; Franci Neely; Carrin Patman and Jim Derrick; Mr. and Mrs. H. Bruce Sallee; Lynn S. Wyatt; ILEX Foundation; Consolato Generale D’Italia Houston; L’Alliance Française de Houston; and The Foundation for Independent Media Arts.