Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners is a stunning film. Directed by Shola Lynch who also directed Unbought and Unbossed, The Life of Shirley Chisholm, and executive produced by actor Jada Pinkett Smith, it is a priceless addition to the record we have of the struggles and courage of black political women. It centers around the period Davis was incarcerated for “aiding and abetting” the kidnap and murder of a judge and several others in a shoot out in which one of the guns used was owned by, and traced, to her. A communist, and under verbal threats by the F.B.I., Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, who had already had her fired from her teaching position at the University of California, Davis’ involvement with George Jackson, a political prisoner whom she loved, brought her into a terrifying situation in which her life was at stake. The film explores Davis’ decision to go underground and then, after capture, to resist the state’s attempt to have her executed for murder.
Throughout her ordeal Davis is inspiring as a vulnerable black woman who nonetheless insists on exercising both intelligence and compassion. She never thinks of herself as the only political prisoner, but of others, both in this country and abroad; a focus she maintains to this day. I don’t know anyone else who has proved so determined and dedicated to the liberation of political prisoners, wherever they might be, an endearing quality for someone who might have disappeared into what many would describe as a brilliant academic career. But what is most delightful about this film is not simply its gift of the brave and charismatic Angela Davis, along with her movingly loyal and heroic sister Fania and their mother Sallye Davis, there is the onscreen record of the deeply healing existence of a huge global multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-gendered people’s Free Angela Davis Movement that worked together to gain her freedom.
One of the best moments for me came when I saw that Aretha Franklin was willing to post bail for Angela Davis, but in her absence, it was paid by a white farmer with a family of, I believe, five small children, who mortgaged his farm.
It is a film not to be missed. It reminds us that we are a people who have already been through major trials that tested us. And we stood. Together. And that we can continue to stand together, whenever the need, like now, is great.
*The Free Angela Davis pin, in all its variations.
Also: How this film is set up in theaters should be noted. When my friends and I saw it we were astonished first of all by all the noise and assault movie goers apparently encounter whenever they go to the movies. Insistent junk that should not be tolerated by awakened individuals. The blatant selling of everything dead, artificial, and sugary. Then there was the realization that this fine film which is truly about all of us was preceded by “black” films only, some of them extremely unsavory and insane. Though there was one, The Life of Jackie Robinson, that promised to be of value.
It is amazing to see how segregation still works. And in fact, this film, in which many white people find their courage and live it fully, a film that could teach white people some of their best history, will not be seen by the huge white audience it deserves because… Well, Angela Davis is still too powerful a symbol of freedom of thought to let the masses claim her again, all these decades later, as one of their heroes of choice.