FREE ANGELA & ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS REVIEW
By: Tony Manyangadze
A new epoch of transformation was on the horizon in America and like a gale it was spreading fast to all the round curves of the globe. Almost four decades later, Shola Lynch, the director of this thought provoking and historical documentary, decided to revisit the past by unravelling why things happened the way they did.
The focal point of this 101 minute-long documentary is Angela Davis. The then young African-American activist, who’s sprouting, took the already existing fight against racial segregation, oppression and societal marginalisation to a new level. The influence she brought to the revolution made her an instant enemy to those whose positions of power and privileges were to cease as a result of the uprisings. Unarguably, this and only this made her susceptible to threats from all dimensions.
Angela Davis was an intelligent young black woman who, after her return from studying abroad, came to love politics and the Black Movement that had gone afloat in her absence. It didn’t take long before she was offered a position to become a professor of Philosophy. It was after her appointment that it was discovered that she was a member of several revolutionary communist movements. The American authorities feared that she was going to use her lecturing position to influence young people to become radical communists.
Plans were made to topple her and subsequently to resign, but because she was strong-willed and drawing support from many she was unstoppable, but only for a little while. Angela is implicated for several counts of murder, she goes underground and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) runs a wide search of her.
She is found, charged and detained without bail. This move was a complete miscalculation by the United States authorities. They perceived that Angela was the centre of the unrest especially amongst the African-American community, and arresting her would do away with the uprisings. To their surprise, the revolts went from bad to worse. Like a smoke, it spread to other states, to other countries and even to other continents. ‘FREE ANGELA & ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS’ were the words the masses were chanting.
The American government is under pressure to see that justice takes its course, the world was watching and their democracy and judiciary system were bound to be tested.
A careful selection of pictures and interviews were used in this documentary to vividly illustrate and substantiate the facts of Angela Davis’s story. Her own accounts deduced from recent interviews just helps reconstruct the saga better and in an interesting way.
The documentary maker was fortunate and resourceful by the clever use of most of the people who were involved in the chronicle. From the interviews and narrations of Angela’s, sisters, friends, defence team to the judge, journalists and photographers who were there, it’s rare that questions are to remain unanswered.
101 minutes for a documentary is a very long time, and for those who have a short attention span, this is highly likely going to be a bore. But be that as it may, it must be said that these 101 minutes justifiably document a very prolonged period of time that was pregnant with momentous historical events and it would have been a miscarriage of documentary making techniques to leave out the background details to the story.
If you are a lover of history, a lover of facts and have 101 minutes to actively concentrate, then this is a documentary film for you to watch. A suggestion will be to buy the biggest packet of popcorn and a fizzy drink because you will definitely need them.