Critics' Pick

FREE ANGELA and all political prisoners (NR)

Documentary 100 April 15, 2013
By Ernest Hardy
In this stirring, soulful doc, director Shola Lynch mixes original interview footage and archival clips with the agility of a master turntablist, syncing images and ideas with precision and focus. Lynch and her film tackle a lot: humanizing Angela Davis; retrieving from modern history's remainder bin one of the most important episodes of the civil rights struggle; and subtly underscoring both how far we've come on issues of race, class, gender, and injustice, and how far there still is to go. Thanks to Lynch's expert pacing and modulation of narrative tension, even viewers who already know the outcome of the film's central incident will likely be pulled to the edge of their seats. The primary focus is Davis's infamous 1971 trial. In October 1970, she was charged with conspiracy, kidnapping, and murder following the botched execution of a plan to free George Jackson. In August of that year, Jackson's 17-year-old brother Jonathan had taken guns from Davis’ home without her knowledge or consent. He used them to burst into a packed courtroom, free three prisoners, and take hostages that he intended to barter for his brother's freedom. A hail of bullets later, Jonathan, two of the prisoners, and a judge were dead. Davis, already a controversial figure, became the third-ever woman to make the FBI’s Most Wanted list. She grew into something of a mythic figure as she went underground, crisscrossing the country while fleeing authorities. Once arrested, she faced the death penalty. Lynch's film shears away mythologies while demonstrating why Davis and other activists of the time became, for many, enduringly romantic figures.
Shola Lynch Angela Davis Shola Lynch Carole Lambert, Shola Lynch, Carine Ruszniewski, Sidra Smith Codeblack Films/Lionsgate


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