Damnit, there is literally so much about this documentary that was beautiful. I admit that I have never read any James Baldwin, but he speaks to my very heart.
It is disheartening that in the 60s there were such powerful and resounding voices demanding equality. Loud enough to scare to US government. It is disheartening that in the 60’s there was the Watts Riots, and 30 years later there was the L.A. Riots, and 30 years later George Floyd was killed. It is disheartening that James Baldwin wrote this memoir in 1987, about the civil rights movement in the 60’s, and yet he could have been writing about the world today.
I wish that there were such voices that could speak for Asian-American equality, such voices that could speak for Native American equality, such voices that could speak for Muslim-American equality. And if there are, it is unfortunate that I have not heard them, because I am sure that alot of other Americans haven’t either.
I wanted to get alot more out of this than I feel I did. After 3 hours and 20 minutes, I have to remind myself that this isn’t a documentary. This was simply a rendition of his life. The mystery of his death still open. Likely suspect, the Nation of Islam. But also suspected, and hinted at here, the American government, scared that one man had so much influence and power.
The truth is, he was kind of a lost soul. Not even 100% black himself. His father was murdered, and his mother couldn’t care for him. He was given an education, but told he’d never get to use it. He dreamed of being a lawyer, but turned to crime. He went to jail. He found religion, and through that a father figure, who nurtured and encouraged him. He clung to that, perhaps believing what he preached, or just repeating, to keep his father figure happy. Until he began believing in more. Malcolm X was too brilliant for his own good. In his younger years, he did one better on his criminal mentor, and eventually, he exceeded his mentor, Elijah Muhammad. He was cast out, and like a child angry at their parent, he fought back. He reverted back to his impulsive nature. He attempted to drag Elijah Muhammad’s name through the dirt, revealing him as a fraud. Like all fundamentalist religions, the Nation of Islam believed their leader to be infallable. And like all fundamentalist religions, there are extremists. But, while it is entirely possible that the Nation of Islam was responsible for his murder, it is also not unlikely that it could have been the FBI. Angry at a black man for using his voice, and ready to do whatever necessary to staunch riot mentality. Not unheard of for them to use embedded black informants. He stated that the white superiority had traded in their sheets and hoods in for police uniforms.
This movie came out 5 months after the ’92 L.A. Riots.
This film, based on a stage play, was the first feature film directed by Regina King. About a meeting of 4 friends in Miami, in 1964. Boxer Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay), NFL star Jim Brown, Singer Sam Cooke, and Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X.
While simply, it is about them discussing their respective roles and influence in the civil rights movement. It strikes deeper into a conversation/debate/argument about black equality and the idea of staying true to oneself.
Though stated to be “based off true events,” while the meeting in Miami did happen, what happened in the motel room is mostly unknown. They did eat icecream.
In the film, Malcolm pushes all of them to stand up and fight for black equality, that they are the ones the world is watching. Muhammad, Jim, and Sam had all found success in a white world. He pushes the loose and joking Sam the most. Telling him that his voice has the power to move mountains. He prods at him, almost mockingly, that Bob Dylan’s Blowin in the Wind, speaks more to the struggles of African Americans than anything Sam has ever written, causing tempers to flair. Later, Sam concedes that he had always been jealous of the song, wondering why he hadn’t been the one who had written it. It is that song that spurs him to finally write something more than pop songs for white people. His song, A Change is Gonna Come, became an anthem for the civil rights movement.