Please take a moment to read Roger Ebert’s entire review.
Here’s an early contract for the film
Some points to consider:
-What are King’s words that are being played? The I’ve been to the Mountaintop speech. Free at Last. Free at Last. Thank God almighty I’m Free at Last.
-King’s legacy is discussed immediately. What does Tank say? How do Johnny, his sister, and BG portray MLK (Booker!)? What does Johnny say in regards to King’s death: He was a big man…but he was holding us back. Memphis proves the answer is guns and more guns
-What else is happening? The streets are filled with people. Can you explain the various positions of the people who have taken to the streets?
– Complete social unrest; out of work, angry, frustrated=disenfranchised.
– Bible thumpers
– Black men who have gone into armed forces. Most likely experienced racism in the army are also excluded from black social groups at home.
– Representatives of non-violent direct action (MLKs primary form of action)
– Continual references to being on one’s knees. This was a complaint in Ireland as well. Explain the tension between someone who prays for salvation and someone who takes up arms.
-The militants steal arms as a way to prepare for what they are characterizing as a revolution?
– Revolt: rise in rebellion: the insurgents revolted and had to be suppressed; refuse to acknowledge someone or something as having authority: voters may revolt when they realize the cost of the measures.
– Rebellion: an act of violent or open resistance to an established government or ruler; the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention: an act of teenage rebellion.
– Insurrection: a violent uprising against an authority or government: the insurrection was savagely put down | opposition to the new regime led to armed insurrection.
– Riot: a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd; an uproar; an outburst of uncontrolled feelings: a riot of emotions raged through Frances.
– Uprising: an act of resistance or rebellion; a revolt: an armed uprising.
When the stumping starts talking about machines and being obsolete, he looks directly at Tank. How has Tank become obsolete? What is significant about Tank being killed/assassinated at the mill he worked at for over twenty years by a black man? The mill is empty and he lost his job there for standing up for other black workers.
(Tank is a middle-aged, unemployed alcoholic who supported King’s non-violent approach, which the others have rejected in favor of violent revolution. It is later revealed that Tank lost his longtime job at the steel mill when he attacked a white co-worker who harassed the black mill workers. As a result, Tank was sent to prison and since being released, has been unable to find work.)
-How is the welfare system portrayed? The good, the bad, and the undermining of a community due to how social welfare is administered in the US.
– Teddy says: You can’t do it alone. Without me you cannot win. And he is proven to be right. When he tries calling to warn the group about the police coming to get Johnny they hang up on him. What do you make of that interaction? King’s mourners are primarily black, but it is very much an integrated audience. Dassin is white, a blacklisted American director who was forced to live in Europe, is making this film with a primarily black cast and co-written by Ruby Dee.
-Yet Corbin says, we have to do it ourselves. We have to develop our own knowhow.
-What do you make of this interaction? Both sides seem to make convincing arguments and treat each other as they do not like or want to be treated.
-Mentioned at the meeting: Medgar Evers (1963, applied to law school and rejected b/c he was black). Shot down in his drive way. In 1994, Byron De La Beckwith, was convicted for Evers’ murder. Also in 63, four girls were killed in a church by a bomb. Again, it wasn’t until years later, 1977, 2000, and 2001, that people were convicted for this crime.
-Mentioned at the meeting: Fascism and Camps. The reality of what happened in Germany is present and there is real belief that black citizens think they are going to be picked up and thrown into camps. BG says this is already happening. Can the prison industrial complex system be seen as a form of camps?
-Talk about the fun house scene. 1:01:58 /44:17 left. This idea that all of black America is in agreement with each other when the film shows, in this small section of Cleveland has depicted many many different points of view. Tank in many ways describes his experience as a black man in America. No water, no money, and exclusion from mainstream society.
-Money. What is the significance of money in this film? In Ford’s Informer he contrasts the reward with a opportunity to go back to America, start over. New life. What is happening here?
-Homosexuality. Clarence/ Daisy is immediately used as a scapegoat by Tank. What do you make of the depiction of homosexuality by Roscoe Lee Browne and his date, Claude.
-Options for tank getting money: hitting a number OR selling blood. Can you imagine the desperation to sell your blood for money so you can eat?