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USA, 2012, 120 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: African/Af. Amer, Biographical, Crime, Documentary, Political
Program: DocumentaryLanguage: English
DIRECTOR: Stephen Vittoria
Producer: Stephen Vittoria, Noelle Hanrahan, Katyana FarzanradEditor: Stephen VittoriaScreenwriter: Stephen VittoriaCinematographer: Erik SorensenPrincipal Cast: Cornel West, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Rubin Hurricane Carter, Peter Coyote, Giancarlo Esposito, Dick Gregory, Ruby Dee, Tariq Ali, Amy Goodman
Mumia Abu-Jamal joined the Black Panther Party at age 15, and reported the racial and political turbulence of the late 1960s and 1970s from the streets. Impressed with his journalism, National Public Radio hired him. In 1981, Abu-Jamal was arrested for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer; he was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to death. But even in solitary confinement, his voice could not be silenced. Long Distance Revolutionary focuses on Abu-Jamal’s writing, politics, and perseverance.
Growing up as Wesley Cook in the Philadelphia projects, Abu-Jamal had a curious mind and a talent for writing. As a young African-American man, he experienced police brutality firsthand. Abu-Jamal says the cop who kicked him in the face at a protest sent him straight into the Black Panther Party. When Philadelphia Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo targeted the Panthers, Abu-Jamal became a wanted man. That did not deter him from writing about racism in America. In dreadlocks and a T-shirt, Abu-Jamal interviewed President Jimmy Carter, who complimented him on his thought-provoking questions. Abu-Jamal also reported on such mainstream events as the 1980 World Series and Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit to Philadelphia.
With newscasts, historic headlines, and archival photos, Long Distance Revolutionary follows Abu-Jamal from a promising journalism career to death row. Intent on telling his story from both outside and inside prison, director Stephen Vittoria and producer Noelle Hanrahan interviewed Abu-Jamal behind bars. They met with supporters who believe in his innocence: Angela Davis, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Dick Gregory, Giancarlo Esposito, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, author Alice Walker, actor Peter Coyote, journalist Amy Goodman, and rapper M-1. Throughout his career, Abu-Jamal never stopped trying to uncover truth. Vittoria says, “In many ways, Mumia’s writing and revolutionary thought reminds us of a 20th- and 21st-century Frederick Douglass.” Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was overturned shortly after the making of this film.
- JOEY PORCELLI
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