Free Angela and All Political Prisoners

A few months ago I finally got around to finishing the documentary The Black Power Mixtape (I live-tweeted it here). It’s quite good – I highly recommend it. Some of my favorite parts were the comments from and especially the original footage of Angela Davis, a Black Panther leader, radical Black feminist scholar, and (until 1991) a Communist Party member. The film is worth watching just for the bits with her alone. She’s absolutely magnetic on screen ( I commented while watching it that “You can totally get why the U.S. government was terrified of Angela Davis. You don’t want her on the other side”).

So I’m really excited to see that there’s a full documentary coming out about Davis, particularly her life as a fugitive and her 1971 trial for trumped up murder charges (charges that made her the third woman ever to land on the FBI’s most-wanted list). Shola Lynch, the director, is also the award-winning filmmaker behind CHISOLM ’72: Unbought and Unbossed another documentary about a badass black woman (Shirley Chisolm, the first woman from the Democratic party the run for president) that’s been on my to-watch list for a while.

EBONY: There’s something about Angela Davis that makes her able to connect with people. She’s so educated. She’s so articulate. Do you think her extensive education played a big part in the drama of her criminal trial in 1971, which is portrayed in your film?

LYNCH: I don’t think it was just her education…What does somebody do when faced with enormous pressure from power? How do you respond to that? And her choices are clear and they’re documented. And I think what’s difficult about her is she doesn’t apologize for her choices. And she appears to be so strong. And in 1970, there just were not that many women, let alone women of color, who projected that persona in the world.

Think about it. When we turned on the television what were we looking at? When we looked in the magazines, what were we looking at? The power of the Panthers was this visual show of strength and for women, Angela was that in so many ways.

Like the Black Power Mixtape, Lynch’s account of Angela Davis situates her in a tumultuous and revolutionary period in American culture and history:

The title says it all – Free Angela & All Political Prisoners. It announces its intent immediately. You know what its POV is; it’s not a retrial of Angela Davis on film – that’s not the film’s intent; rather, it tells the story of an injustice done to a young woman whose life changed completely, radically and swiftly, after being thrust into the spotlight when then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, insisted on having her barred from teaching at any university in the State of California, due to her membership in the Communist Party; a young woman who would become a scapegoat/example for the government’s (then under Nixon’spresidency) intolerance for radicalism, the embodiment of a constructed imaginary enemy; a young woman who would soon become the prime spokes-person for the freedom of all political prisoners. – Tambay A. Obenson, Shadow and Act

Shorter version: this sounds really awesome and I can’t wait for it to come out.

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