Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st April 2011
Box Office USA: $0.3M
Distributed by: IFC Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 42 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Goran Olsson
Producer: Annika Rogell
Screenwriter: Goran Olsson
In 1967 a group of Swedish filmmakers went to America to look behind the heavily slanted reporting of the US news media. Without the filter of the American establishment, they interviewed key figures like Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver and Stokeley Carmichael. But this footage was only recently discovered, and has been assembled here to paint a more realistic portrait of the era. What it reveals makes far more sense than the stories that the paranoid power elite fed to us at the time.
Of course, the central truth is that African-American communities in the 1960s were horrifically victimised by the racism of the general public, the police and the government. It's hardly surprising that outspoken leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr took stands against it, followed by a series of articulate leaders working with community action groups like the Black Panthers.
It's also no surprise that the status quo fought back, labelling their attempts at self-defence as aggressive violence, trumping up charges to imprison them and, yes, killing them. It's also fairly obvious that the primary threat was to the Vietnam war machine, which fed the capitalistic beast that so effectively suppressed any undesirable groups. And the Black Panthers' main goals were socialistic: helping needy community members through education programmes and free lunches (which J Edgar Hoover called a "major threat" to America).
This film is extremely well-documented, identifying everyone on screen and adding present-day voiceovers that add perspective. It's also a pacey, well-edited movie that grabs our attention and never lets go. Through humour, passion and emotion, plus some astonishing unseen footage, we are given a chance to experience these events from a new perspective. And by seeing it through the eyes of these Swedish journalists, we begin to realise that the real struggle of this painful period isn't over yet.