Othello (1980 film)

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Directed byLiz White
Produced byLiz White
Based onOthello
by William Shakespeare
StarringYaphet Kotto
Richard Dixon
Audrey Dixon
Lewis Chisholm, Jr.
Olive Bowles
Douglas Gray
Liz White
Benjamin Ashburn
Jim Williams
Music byJonas Gwangwa
CinematographyCharles Dorkins
Release date
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$200,000 USD

Othello is Liz White's 1980 dramatic adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello. An all black cast and crew, including budding actor Yaphet Kotto in his first role, created the film.[1]


Yaphet Kotto as Othello
Benjamin Ashburn as Montano
Olive Bowles as Emilia
Louis Chisholm, Jr. as Cassio
Audrey Dixon as Desdemona
Richard Dixon as Iago
Douglas Gray as Roderigo
Lincoln Pope as Duke of Venice
Liz White as Bianca
Jim Williams as Brabantio


White's Othello began as an acclaimed performance in 1960-1961 at Shearer Summer Theater, White's own repository company on Martha's Vineyeard, and in 1960 in Harlem.[2][3][4] Shearer began the repository with a mission to create more roles for the black actors and more jobs for black theater technicians. The entire cast and crew of the film are black.


With help from Charles Dorkins, White directed the film over the summers from 1962-1966. Most involved with the project were students or maintained part- or full-time jobs during filming—even White worked as a stage dresser during production.[5][6] The film was further delayed when Yaphet Kotto began his Hollywood movie career.[7]


White herself played Bianca and she enlisted her son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Audrey Dixon, as Iago and Desdemona.[8]


The film did not screen until 1980, when it had its official debut at Howard University. In White's biography in the promotion materials for the debut, it reads: "[Liz] works out of her apartment in the Dunbar complex in Harlem and at the editing space she rents in the Screen Building on Broadway. She is cutting and editing a print of her feature length film, "Othello", sleeping on the studio floor some nights."[9] The film's release was in part due to White's reluctance to label the film an "art" film. She attempted to market the film to various studios, including Warner Brothers.[10] It has never been released commercially.[11]


  1. ^ "Promotional material for Liz White's film presentation of Othello, May 1980 | Smithsonian Digital Volunteers". transcription.si.edu.
  2. ^ "Vineyard Othello". The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News.
  3. ^ "Othello · British Universities Film & Video Council". bufvc.ac.uk.
  4. ^ Donaldson, Peter (1987). "Liz White's "Othello"". Shakespeare Quarterly. 38 (4): 482–495. doi:10.2307/2870428. JSTOR 2870428.
  5. ^ Shakespeare, William (2009). Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307420602.
  6. ^ Gottlieb, Sidney (1 April 1992). "Review: Shakespearean Films / Shakespearean Directors by Peter S. Donaldson". FILM QUART. 45 (3): 57–58. doi:10.2307/1213227. ISSN 0015-1386.
  7. ^ "Revisiting Shearer Summer Theatre". The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News.
  8. ^ Kolin, Philip (2013). Othello: Critical Essays. Routledge. ISBN 9781136536311.
  9. ^ "Promotional material for Liz White's film presentation of Othello, May 1980 | Smithsonian Digital Volunteers". transcription.si.edu.
  10. ^ Donaldson, Peter S. (2013). Shakespearean Films/Shakespearean Directors. Routledge. ISBN 1135048274.
  11. ^ "Othello · British Universities Film & Video Council". bufvc.ac.uk.

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