Hell-Bound Train

Directed by Eloyce Gist, and James Gist

Year: 1930
Running Time: 50
Color Type: Black & White
Country: U.S.
Language: Silent w English Intertitles
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Hell-Bound Train

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Directed by Eloyce Gist and James Gist
Writers James Gist and Eloyce Gist
Composed by Dylan Kelehan


HELL-BOUND TRAIN (circa 1930), 50 Min. Written and directed by James and Eloyce Gist. Music composed and performed by Dr. Samuel Waymon. Music produced by Dylan Kelehan. Mastered in HD from 16mm elements preserved by The Library of Congress. Restored by S. Torriano Berry.

HELL-BOUND TRAIN is arguably the most significant rediscovery in Pioneers of African-American Cinema. The film is the work of self-taught filmmakers James and Eloyce Gist, African-American evangelists who employed cinema as a tool for their traveling ministry. Their surreal visual allegories were screened in churches and meeting halls, accompanied by a sermon and the passing of a collection plate. Rather than having a linear story, the film is instead a catalog of iniquity, a car-by-car dramatization of the sins of the Jazz Age (including gambling, dancing, alcohol, and the mistreatment of animals), presided over by a horned devil, culminating in a colossal derailment (a model train tossed into a bonfire).

Admittedly, the production values are minimal—being shot with hand-held 16mm
equipment with natural light, and without audio—but the surreality of it all makes for a compelling viewing experience, and shows that renegade, visionary filmmakers can be found in the most unexpected places. HELL-BOUND TRAIN
features a newly-created score by Dr. Samuel Waymon, best known to cineastes as having provided the moody score (and portrayed the minister/chauffeur) in Bill Gunn’s influential 1973 film Ganja and Hess. Waymon, an ordained minister, continues to write and perform R&B music, and recently served as consultant on the documentary The Amazing Nina Simone (the subject of which is his late sister, née Eunice Waymon). It is believed that HELL-BOUND TRAIN was filmed prior to James’s marriage to Eloyce, so it is unclear how much involvement she had in the making of the film. But she may have had a hand in the editing and was certainly engaged in all aspects of their subsequent work.

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