Song of Freedom (1936)

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Song of Freedom is a 1936 British film starring Paul Robeson. One of two elements pivotal to the plot is an opera composer named Gabriel Donizetti, presumably suggested by the historical opera composer Gaetano Donizetti. The other is a medallion that serves to identify Robeson's character as a descendant of an African monarch.

Song of Freedom may best represent the opportunity Robeson was looking for to "give a true picture of many aspects of the life of the coloured man in the West. Hitherto on the screen, he has been characterized or presented only as a comedy character. This film shows him as a real man." Robeson was also given final cut approval on the film, an unprecedented option at the time for an actor of any race.

As in Sanders of the River, the film called for documentary scenes of West African traditional dances and ceremonies, but this time Robeson obtained a contract giving him final cut, so that the film's message would not be changed behind the doors of the editing room.

Robeson plays Zinga, a black dockworker in England with a great baritone singing voice. He is discovered by an opera impresario, and is catapulted into great fame as an international opera star. Yet he feels alienated from his African past, and out of place in England. By chance, he is informed that an ancestral medallion that he wears is proof of his lineage to African kings, and he leaves fame and fortune to take his rightful place of royalty. Reunited with his people, he plans to improve their lives by combining the best of western technology with the best of traditional African ways.

Although the film was not a box office success in the US, it was notably chosen in 1950 to open the convention of Ghana's Convention People's Party. The ceremonies were presided over by the future first prime minister of independent Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, Robeson's friend from his London years.