American Experience: Season 6, Episode 5

Malcolm X: Make It Plain (26 Jan. 1994)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, History
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 106 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 1 critic

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Episode credited cast:
Herself - Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Sharon 10X ...
Herself - Nation of Islam
Benjamin 2X ...
Himself - Nation of Islam
Mohmaed Al-Faysal ...
Himself - Prince of Saudi Arabia
Herself - Author
Peter Bailey ...
Himself - Harlem Resident
John Henrik Clarke ...
Himself - Friend and Historian (as John Henrick Clarke)
Ella Collins ...
Herself - Half Sister
Himself - Harlem Resident
William DeFossett ...
Himself - NYC Patrolman
Peter Goldman ...
Himself - Journalist
Alex Haley ...
Himself - Biographer
Malcolm 'Shorty' Jarvis ...
Himself - Friend
Yvonne Jones ...
Herself - Youngest Sister (as Yvonne Little)
Yuri Kochiyama ...
Herself - Harlem Activist (as Mary Kochiyama)


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26 January 1994 (USA)  »

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An excellent, if slightly dry, documentary
27 January 2014 | by (US) – See all my reviews

An intelligent and well done overview, giving a sense of the many amazing steps Malcolm took over the evolution of his life. And perhaps that was the most admirable thing of all about the man; the fact that he kept learning, growing, changing all through his life. He allowed his strongest beliefs and loyalties to stay open to challenges, something all the human race could gain from.

I only had two minor difficulties with the film. With a life this rich and complex, even two and a half hours feels a bit rushed, a bit sped through. There's a reason his autobiography runs almost 500 pages. I missed hearing more about the human sides of the man, what he was like away from the crowds. And even much of the public Malcolm, the leader, the speaker, by nature gets a bit of a 'readers digest' treatment. I don't really blame the filmmaker. Malcolm's life was complex enough that more screen time would likely have been the only way to do any better.

The other thing, perhaps related to the above, was that it didn't have quite the emotional impact -- at least for me -- of Spike Lee's bio-pic. I'm not sure if that's a testament to how strong Lee's film was, or a sign of something missing in this documentary. But generally it's much more common for me to respond to the 'reality' of a documentary, rather than the dramatized version of the same story. For me, this was a rare exception. The sense of understanding, admiration, and loss I felt with Lee's film was somehow stronger.

None-the-less, this is still an excellent, informative and well-made sweeping portrait of the life of one of the more important and complex people of the 20th century. Sadly, it's now out-of-print, and almost impossible to find.

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