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Deacons for Defense (2003)

The words "Black Power" bring back memories of names like Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and Eldridge Cleaver, but in Bogalusa, LA a group of harassed Afro-Americans had decided they'd ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Marcus Clay
...
William Chase
...
Michael Deane
...
Reverend 'Rev' Gregory
Gene Mack ...
T.J.
...
Archie
Paul Benjamin ...
Otis
...
Baily
...
Rose Clay
Serena Lee ...
Lucille Clay
Khafre Armatrading ...
Brooks Clay
...
Charles Hillibrand
Beau Starr ...
Neely
...
Lawson
Aaron Walpole ...
Jimmy
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Storyline

The words "Black Power" bring back memories of names like Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and Eldridge Cleaver, but in Bogalusa, LA a group of harassed Afro-Americans had decided they'd had enough and took up arms to defend themselves and force the white power structure to listen to them. This took place during "Freedom Summer", 1964, right after the Civil Rights Act had become law. Fact based movie stars Forest Whitaker and Ossie Davis, the former as the founder of the Deacons of Defense and Justice (DDJ) and the latter as a peaceful minister trying to prevent the unavoidable violence that will follow. The story revolves around the white-controlled factory which provides 70% of the town's income and employees 40% of its people. Segregation is still clinging on within the factory, with blacks denied the supervisory positions and forced into separate lunchrooms, bathrooms, and drinking fountains. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has its strongest power in this area and, as the DDJ gets armed ... Written by AzRanger <Ranger273@azrangers.org>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some violent images and language | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

16 February 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A védelem diakónusai  »

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Did You Know?

Quotes

[discussing ways to fight the Klan]
Archie: But Marcus, ain't we taking this a little too far?
T.J.: It's called for, and you know it, Archie.
Marcus Clay: If this is an army of one, then this is an army of one. I gave my word.
Otis: Gentlemen, I've been waiting for this day, my whole life.
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Connections

Featured in 10th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Awesome Film About A Little Known Civil Rights Incident
20 February 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw this excellent film and was so impressed with the performances. Forrest Whittaker, in one of his strongest roles, proves once again he is one of the most under appreciated actors working today. In a town of Louisiana in 1964, at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement, he portrays a hard working man who, as a spokesperson for the Black workers in a local paper mill, is simply trying to survive in a United States that refuses to recognize a Black man's truth worth and self dignity. This small town in Louisiana of this time period is very oppressed, racism is overt, the Klu Klux Klan is a dominant force, many of the police are in the Klan, and Whittaker's character wearily knows his place, that he and his brethren will never rise above the oppressive segregation that stifles them and their families each and every day. Two things happen to spur action here. When one of his co-worker friends is beaten by the local white powers that be for simply adding his name on a posted list at work for consideration for a promotion to Supervisor, and 2 white Civil Rights workers (one played impressively by Jonathan Silverman) come to town to help raise consciousness and organize the Black locals for non-violent demonstrations, Whittaker-out of necessity-evolves into a man of purpose (and action). He and his friends form a covert group of armed military man called the "Deacons Of Defense" to protect fellow Blacks from the racist police and covert mill workers who are dead set against any integration. What knocked me out at the core of this film was the uneasy alliance/relationship between Silverman, who, as a young idealist, sincerely wished to promote a non-violent agenda, and Whittaker, who knew the only way to preserve and survive was to arm and fight the white power structure on the same terms as they did. When Silverman (and his Civil Rights coworker) get badly beaten as "nig--r lovers" by the racist locals, and the federal government announces that all forms of segregation must be abolished (per Lyndon B. Johnson's mandate), a final confrontation occurs between the white KKK supremists and the Deacons. The law now reads "local law enforcement officials MUST protect Black citizens". But will they? It is chilling for a TV film to create this level of tension, yet there is a balance in characterization, considering the touchy subject matter. Director Bill Duke shows his flair, style and sensitivity to the historical content. He filmed this explosive film in a quasi-documentary style, using some very disturbing footage, and black and white photography that makes you feel you are there. This material, while little known, was treated with utmost respect and factual data. Ossie Davis is wonderful as the local minister, who grows to finally understand that there is no recourse but to support what the Deacons are doing. And as the previous reviewer well noted, the man just cannot give a bad performance. Supporting roles were well casted and portrayed. But it is Whittaker's show all the way. I feel this film is so relevant today; it needs to be seen by all youth. Actually, everyone should see this movie. It's that moving. A must see film.


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