This is a new documentary by Swedish filmakers detailing the rise and fall of the Militant Black Power movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. According to the doocumentary, the movement rose due to disillusionment with the peaceful non-violent Civil Rights movement in the wake of assassinations of Martin Luther King and John and Bobby Kennedy. The movement fell due to the harrassment, imprisonment and murder of its leaders and the swamping of the ghettos of its homebase with drugs by the U.S. government’s Co-Intel-Pro.
the Black Power salute – on the podium at the 1968 Mexico Olympics
All students of Black history know the story and the Black Power iconography, but this documentary features powerful interviews with some of the main players of that era – Stokley Carmichael, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, and a young Louis Farrakhan. And note that these are not the usual interviews with veterans of the struggle, looking back on ‘the good old days’. Despite the fact that this is a new documentary these interviews were done at the time – with Angela Davis whilst she was in prison on terrorism charges, with Eldridge Cleaver whilst he was in exile in Tangiers, and with Louis Farrakahn as he was positioning himself as the new leader of the Nation of Islam. To put these interviews into a modern day context there is also commentary from current artists like Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, and Questlove (though I would have liked to have seen their faces on screen rather than just heard their voices).
My one criticism of the film would be the lack of music from the period, which after-all was the golden era of Black American music. Perhaps the Swedish filmakers don’t realise how important music is to the Black experience, or maybe they had licensing issues. That aside, this is still required viewing for students of modern Black history.