Thursday, September 10, 2009

American Revolution 2 (movie review)

This black and white documentary was shot in 1968 around the time of the democratic convention in Chicago. The camera is lively, cinema verite style, like a high rez cell phone, but long before these were around. There's no narration. The talent clearly trusts the camera crew and doesn't hold back from expressing itself as clearly as it knows how.

As Roger Ebert wrote in 1969, at the time of the film's debut:
The film is an "unnarrated documentary," something both The Film Group and Chicago filmmakers Gerald Temaner and Gordon Quinn have men experimenting with. There's no deep, authoritative voice telling us what is happening. Instead, we see and hear only the people the film is about; they speak for themselves.
Wrapped up with this prehistoric footage in this time capsule DVD, is a more contemporary color special feature from circa 1998, wherein one of the protagonists, Black Panther El Franco Lee, has become a collectible artist and much appreciated politician, as has his brother Bobby Lee Rush, likewise a Black Panther and by this time a USA congressman.

The editing of the 1960s portion reflects an ethereal intelligence, dissolving at the end into grave stones, angels, a zoom out of Chicago. We've got a satellite view here. This is an art film, more than a political one.

I agree the folks were articulate and strong at representing their views, especially that mom with the rifle who wasn't gonna take it anymore. Police brutality and harassment were of central concern. Gotham was really ugly back then, and still has quite a ways to go I reckon.

Mike Gray writes (of his own work):
Gray's gritty, no-frills style is spontaneous and purposeful suggesting a you-are-there quality that captures the excitement of the era. Shot verite style, with no script, hand-held camera, direct sound, and natural lighting, the look is rough, raw, and real much like the city it depicted.
The film excited my misanthropy, as I thought everyone too inarticulate, both uptown and not. However the sensitivity of the filmmakers themselves redeemed the project in my overly judgmental eye. These were good people, doing their best. Thanks for the view.