Free Angela and All Political Prisoners

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners

DVD - 2013
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This film chronicles the life of young college professor Angela Davis, and how her social activism implicates her in a botched kidnapping attempt that ends with a shootout, four dead, and her name on the FBI's 10 most wanted list.
Publisher: Santa Monica, CA : Lionsgate, c2013
Branch Call Number: 322. 42092 FRE
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (ca. 102 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in


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Apr 06, 2018

She becomes an activist through the 60s and early 70s, an intellectual, Black Panther, a woman, a prisoner charged for capital crimes and offenses weighted with capital punishment, even as she was never present at the scene of this crime for which she is accused, and then locked in solitary confinement while being detained and incarcerated for 16 months, a kind of modern day resurrection of Medieval times, while awaiting her trail -- and in the film, once stating, 'they wanted to break me, they wanted me to respond' -- a professor, revolutionist, is a black American, communist, definitively counterculture at a time when Nixon, who labels her a 'dangerous terrorist,' was president and Reagan was California governor who went on to publicly express his support for her ouster as a professor at UCLA, and the paranoia of McCarthyism was still fresh and present, and when John F. Kennedy (1963), Malcolm X (1965), Martin Luther King Jr. (1968), and Robert F. Kennedy (1968) had recently been assassinated, just a few years prior, and, in all the chaos, in the backdrop, where the nation was in the latter stages of an extended and now heightened Vietnam War, soldier and country fatigued, rises Angela Yvonne Davis, a youthful woman whose manner of speech is measured and deliberate, extends in precise diction, and is reliably even‑tempered, and who comes from a family unit in Birmingham, AL, from a burgeois neighborhood which became known as 'Dynamite Hill' in the 1950s because of the constant explosions that would detonate in the area in an attempt to drive out the middle-class blacks living there; these were the times.

You don't hear about this story in public schools, I think I can safely say -- certainly I didn't, not a said word, while growing up as a naturalized citizen in a major metropolitan area on the West coast, and even in my college years wading through general education requirements, sparsely, until I watched this film, thoughtfully directed and presented by Shola Lynch, many years later into my adulthood -- a missed opportunity for those too young or for those who weren't directly affected, but became so, eventually, through integrated general society, to have a thoughtful and considered conversation, and with the hope to gain a better understanding, for all our sake, and within a safe setting of how race relations, minority relations, gender relations, you name it, began to develop, pervade, and go on to take a life of its own, sometimes to crippling effect, whether unintended or otherwise and disordered ipso facto. And I can say that this film gives me a clear and substantive base of understanding of these relations, these sometimes complicated relations, its manifestations, and of the times, even if the experience for me was physically absent, that it's only now beginning to fill my awareness in a more coherent way -- but make no mistake, has long since affected my reality -- adding to it the tiny pieces of history, related particularly to race relations, that I've acquired over the years. There are so many things, and even unexpected surprises, to say and discuss about this film -- and I would even go so far as to say it's an essential film -- which goes from discussions about racial tensions to the prison system, the court system, to one that paints a broader narrative about the preservation, and health, of our democracy and beyond, but it's probably best to give it a view and determine for yourself. Of the many scenes worth noting, Angela, somehow, remains equanimous the entire time, even as she is tracked down by the FBI after being placed onto the Bureau's Top 10 Most Wanted list, and at some point after her capture and arrest, she finally admits that she's scared, only one time she says this; and given her history of courage, it takes a lot for her to reach this defining circumstance, her crux. And suddenly, you can feel the entire weight of the world on her shoulders.

A must-see for anyone interested in the 1960s cultural revolution. During this period, I grew up in California in a solidly liberal if not radical family, and Angela Davis was a figure who evoked great fear. A revolutionary. A communist. A college professor. A black woman. That I didn't know, or cannot remember, until I saw this documentary that Davis' troubles with the law were intertwined with the Soledad Brothers and George Jackson and the iconic shootout at the Marin County courthouse, is a powerful testament to the brainwashing effects of demonization. The only criticism of the film is that it might be a little too Angelacentric and not encompassing enough of the greater social ferment of the time.

Jan 09, 2015

This is an entertaining though deeply biased film. It doesn't mention the criticism Davis attracted for accepting lavish invitations and much praise from the USSR and East Germany while those states were deeply repressing their own dissidents. Her position, still held, that every single African-American convict is ipso facto a "political prisoner" is of course absurd. And, to my surprise, the film left me persuaded, unintentionally, and contrary to my prior reading, that she was indeed guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, and ought to have been convicted. Her acquittal on that charge was a great achievement by her defence counsel. In a telling moment, one of them admits during the film that the reading of the verdict on this, the third charge, was the most anxious moment for them in the trial, because this was the one they were worried about -- not that she was an actual party to the murders themselves, but that she was a member of the conspiracy to commit them, because she bought the guns used to commit them three days later, in circumstances where she had reason to know that the people to whom she made the guns available were likely to commit a crime along the lines they did, taking hostages at the courthouse and killing them. She was very, very lucky to walk from that charge.

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