Friday, July 04, 2008
directed by Samm Styles and Tcinque Sampson
DVD Review by Dan Tres Omi
When I first watched the preview for Black August, I was amped. It was good to see someone make a movie that focused on our heroes and sheroes. I found it fortunate that it was going straight to DVD. I honestly didn't expect a major distributor to pick up a movie with that title. The movie was based on the life of Black Panther Party for Self Defense Field Marshall, George Jackson. Jackson has also been credited with being instrumental in the formation of the Black Guerrilla Family. Both of his books, Blood in My Eyeand Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, are a must read for those who want to study the Black Nationalist movement of the sixties. Those books also made Jackson the darling of the white left.
The movie stars CSI's Gary Dourdan, an actor who has paid dues for several years. Dourdan has always been a serious actor. Unfortunately, Hollywood cares so little for serious Black actors. Darren Bridgett plays David Dryer, Jackson's editor for his first book “Soledad Brother.” The movie centers around Jackson's time in San Quentin and the events that led to the publishing of his first book and subsequent murder.
While it is true that much of what happened to Jackson and his younger brother Jonathan is shrouded in hearsay, the movie does more to continue that mystery. Jackson never had the chance to write an autobiography and a great portion of his life has yet to be told so making a movie that is somewhat accurate would be difficult. However, the movie spends too much time on theatrics instead of actual events.
There are scenes where we find Jackson in his cell practicing katas, screaming, or crying. These scenes are muted and are over laid with Dourdan reading some of Jackon's letters. These scenes take away from the overall flow of the movie. The movie also makes too many jumps throughout Jackson's life. Instead of a continual stream of a coherent time line, the audience is given scenes from different segments in Jackson's life that are just too chopped up to put together. This is a technique used in almost every theatrical account of a historical figure. Yet in Black August, this technique only adds to the confusion.
I tried hard to like this movie. Jackson is one of my heroes and I greatly admire his work. Blood in My Eye made me rethink my approach to Black Nationalism and gave me a better understanding of working class struggle in the United States. I find that the directors missed many opportunities to introduce other notable revolutionaries from that time. Instead we are introduced to more and more fictional characters. The audience is not even introduced to what Jackson stood for and doesn't define his role as Field Marshall . This is the movie's major flaw. Instead we are given heartfelt scenes with Jackson and Dryer and Jackson's issues with his mother.