Black History Month: PBS airs ‘Black Power Mixtape’

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0206_Angela_Davis_in_prison_interview_PBS_Mixtape.jpgAngela Davis talks with a Swedish reporter from her prison cell in the new ‘Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975’Want a startlingly fresh window into Black History Month? PBS’s Independent Lens series has chosen three provocative films that we’re sure will spark discussion. On Thursday February 9, 2012, the second in this series is The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, an eye-popping pastiche of Swedish television news footage that is just emerging from archives in Scandinavia.

Most-Asked Questions by Our Readers? Last week, we published an overview of the first film in the PBS Black History Month series, Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock. That film debuted nationally on the Independent Lens series on February 2, 2012, but readers immediately began asking: “When is that airing?” Of course, PBS’s loosely linked network airs documentaries like these at various times on various stations coast to coast. Some TV stations air them multiple times. Some TV stations never show them.
Here is the Independent Lens page for Back Power Mixtape, where you can check regional listings.

Debuting on PBS, February 9, 2012:
‘Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975’

As we reported in our Daisy Bates story, we are not alone in praising these films. This second film in the series was shown at Sundance a year ago and has racked up more online reviews than Daisy Bates. The Hollywood Reporter calls Mixtape: “A powerful reminder of the black power movement, often neglected, misrepresented or forgotten in this country.” The Reporter calls the archival footage of Davis “astonishing” and says: “With her huge Afro bursting out of the frame, she is a direct and forceful presence answering questions.”

The media trade publication Variety reports: “Covering the period from the rise of the Black Power movement to the beginning of the inner-city drug plague that tore it apart, the filmmakers have excavated some remarkable moments from the archives. A jailhouse interview with cause celebre Angela Davis displays the wrongly accused professor’s intense erudition even in the face of appalling treatment; a black-and-white segment of famed activist Stokely Carmichael interviewing his own mother is touching; and a sit-down chat with Louis Farrakhan on the eve of his rise to power in the Nation of Islam shows the leader’s serpentine charm already eerily intact.

Previewing this documentary, as editor of ReadTheSpirit, I have to say: The Farrakhan sequence made my skin crawl, knowing much more about the hate speech he would unleash in later years. In this documentary, however, the footage fits as one of nine different snapshots of this era. And, as Variety reports about the Farrakhan clip within the documentary, he already is exuding “serpentine charm” and comes across as “eerily” troubling—which is accurate.

The most important thing to say about this collage of video footage, pasted into a single documentary scrapbook is this: The footage was shot from the perspective of foreign journalists who had different assumptions than American chroniclers of the era. Locked away for decades, and released now with a contemporary narration framing the collection of video clips—this is very thought-provoking material. The host for this PBS series, Mary-Louise Parker, introduces the documentary by saying: “The same old story is not the same when it’s told by someone else.” And, that’s absolutely true!

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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