Documentary of James Baldwin and Dick Gregory discussing the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s Great Britian.

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Documentary of James Baldwin and Dick Gregory discussing the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s Great Britian.

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28 January 2017 (Netherlands)  »

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"White is an attitude, not a colour"
15 May 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a straightforward record of a lecture and Q&A session with prominent Black American author James Baldwin - with involvement also from Dick Gregory, a civil rights activist and comedian (who stood for the US Presidency in the very same year). A session based at a British West Indian centre, just as the post-Windrush generation is getting more politicised.

It is an intent visual record, eschewing elaborate cinematic techniques in favour of stark monochrome, taking in Baldwin's impassioned, reasoned address and the audience's engaged participation.

The director, Ove, went on to make the socially conscious, often incisive "Pressure" (1975). His unusual career in cinema began with an extra's role in Hollywood's infamous grand folly, "Cleopatra" and he worked also in British television: several Play for Todays and even directorial duties on Brian Clemens' "The Professionals" in the early 1980s. The interview with Ove on the "Pressure" DVD reveals him as a jovial, thoughtful figure: reflecting on how Trinidad made him, with its cosmopolitan culture of carnivals, art and cinema. In HO's experience, Trinidad was not a stereotypically deprived or consumerist culture, but one where you could experience Dali and Picasso.

Ove, and the participants in this film absolutely resist the subordinate, victim's position often accorded them by white liberals. There is a sense of the burgeoning confidence of the Black Power movement - ever more militant by the time of "Pressure".

Few have been so eloquent as Baldwin and Gregory in articulating the case for true self-determination: the desire for black people to gain control of their own destiny. This film stands as a timely reminder to 'liberals' of all persuasions that freedom is not something to be granted by the missionary; to be doled out by conqueror to the conquered.

It should never be about whites seeking to 'do something for the poor black people... we've got to do something for each other - to save this really rather frightening world'. Will western leaders ever heed Baldwin's egalitarian perspective?


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