|Index||5 reviews in total|
The film did a wonderful job of showing the people involved in the group of cases that comprised "Brown" - It was not meant to be a comprehensive view of the aftermath of Brown - That will take many, many films. Check out the PBS documentary "Setting the Woods on Fire" about the life of George Wallace to get an idea of the racism of the Deep South. That is in counterpoint and shows the monumental forces that these individuals faced - Wallace represented the views of most racist Southerners. The first reviewer wanted to see another film - one on the Macro level. I thoroughly enjoyed this film for its focus on the individuals who joined to change the fabric of America. There are many documentaries on civil rights and there are many that still need to be made. One that needs to be made that should focus on the lack of teaching in schools of how close in time de jure segregation existed - we are still living in a de facto segregated society.
"With All Deliberate Speed" is a work that still has relevance even 52
years after the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of
Education. And, the film has added meaning for me, since I grew up in
Prince Edward County, Virginia, living in the town of Farmville. While
I was too young to remember the exact details of May 17, 1954, I do
remember its most fateful aftermath for me, the closing of the Prince
Edward County public schools.
In the spring of 1959, I had just completed the 3rd grade and was looking forward to a long Southern summer. What I did not know was that during the next 3 months, the county school board would close all schools in the county rather than integrate. The next fall I began attending classes literally put together in a matter of weeks.
"With All Deliberate Speed" takes me back to those early days and presents a side of this time in our history that needs to be remembered. I commend the producers of this film for effectively exploring this subject matter and helping me to better understand this turbulent period of my own childhood. It is a time I will never forget.
This film should be seen by everyone.
Peter Gilbert's "With All Deliberate Speed" could have gone off in any of many interesting directions in its examination of the inadequacies of schools in America's black communities. A wonderful film could have been made about the the heroic, trailblazing efforts of the people who sparked the debate over the "seperate but equal" policies of American education and the eventual landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. A thought-provoking movie could have been made about how, more than 50 years after the Supreme Court's ruling in that case, schools in black neighborhoods are still poorly equipped and staffed by comparison with those in white communities. A bold film could have been made about how the actions of the people involved with Brown are seemingly lost on many of today's youngsters who are benefiting from the dues paid by their ancestors. But director Peter Gilbert can't seem to decide which one of these independently interesting movies he wants to make, and the resulting picture feels like a rambling history lecture without the benefit of a central idea to keep the film focused. The information contained within "With All Deliberate Speed" is undoubtedly important, but watching the film is like reading the Cliff Notes to a great novel and missing all the richness and meaning behind the story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film is a moving and lucid look at a turning point in American consciousness, the 1954 Supreme Court decision in the school segregation cases decided collectively under Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that brings together people who were directly involved in it, and remembers many other unsung heroes of the times who risked everything they had in an era when lynching was still common practice, to take action against segregation and the morally insulting philosophy of Plessy vs. Ferguson of 1896 that stated no harm was done by racist segregation, that it was only "in the minds of the Negroes." I was greatly impressed to learn of Barbara Johns, the 16-year-old student of Moton High School who conceived, organized, and led the "strike" of the students for equal educational facilities there, and who called and involved the NAACP legal defense team. The film should be required viewing for all American citizens. The sections of the film that show how detached, ignorant and unconcerned are today's youth, with the notable exception of a few, are saddening, but serve to help explain why, after more than 50 years, the promise of Brown vs. Board remains unrealized.
I agree with "dstyb" that this documentary at times lacks a clear
focus, though you can't ignore that despite a few problems this is
still a very powerful documentary about simple people who helped change
the country for the better. The history of the integration of our
country's public schools is a topic too seldom discussed and the film
did an exceptional job bringing to light the many sacrifices people
made to force change. As Julian Bond said in the film, this movement
consisted of "ordinary people doing extraordinary things".
I learned a lot from the film about the roots to Brown versus The Topeka Board of Education and using interviews with the actual participants was very touching. I'd say that 90% of the film was as good a documentary as you'll ever see and it's must-see viewing for kids--especially since in interviews in this film, students today didn't think talking about integration was relevant or important! Unfortunately, despite being a very touching documentary, the film seems to bite off too much as it tries to make the connection from 1954 to the state of our present school system. Some of their case is very convincing--kids who are minorities tend to live in poor districts and so the schools tend to be run down and have second-rate standards--much like it was BEFORE integration. This is unacceptable, but somehow society hasn't done anything about this.
However, at times, the film uses spurious logic in looking at racism as being the root cause of ALL disparity in schools in America. Early in the film, they discuss the plight of the schools in the District of Columbia (which is run mostly by local Black politicians). But what they don't mention is that the District has the highest per capita spending on students in the nation--with $24,600 per child--the same that is spent on kids in the elite private schools in this same city (Washington Post, April 2008). And, what is also not mentioned is that student safety is a major concern in schools in cities like DC and Detroit. So when one teacher in the film tells asks her class "why do Whites go to private schools?" and then indicates it's all because of racism, she's not quite hit the problem on the head. The answer isn't just racism but most likely because White Americans can afford private schooling while most Black Americans can't. I would love to see a film address the whole picture--prejudice, indifference, lack of accountability, drugs, the huge dropout rate, teen pregnancies, etc. to discuss why students fail. As a public school teacher whose children never attended private schools, I am alarmed at some of our schools but hate that racism is always seen as THE root cause. A root cause, yes, but not the only one. And in this respect, the film, at times, seems to have a few stereotypes of their own. Once we can get past these preconceptions on all sides, perhaps we can get to work addressing the problems today.
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