AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

1/26/08

Black August On DVD: Soledad Brother George Jackson Memorialized

By Prairie Miller

If it's true that the less costly straight-to-DVD journey of any historically rooted drama is potentially bolder and more truthful, by more effectively bypassing the profit-driven political censorship of Hollywood, then Black August is certainly a striking example of this promising trend. The searing drama is an earnest and reverential biopic delving into the tragic, short life of the late George Jackson, sixties US political prisoner, LA Black Panther spiritual and intellectual guiding force, and fierce leader within the Black prison movement at San Quentin.

Filmmaker and screenwriter TCinque Sampson (co-directing with Samm Styles), himself spent 22 years behind bars, including part of his sentence spent in a cell next to the one Jackson had occupied at Quentin years earlier. And the vigor and intensity of Sampson's narrative casts an uncompromising gaze on the oppressiveness and brutality of life behind bars. George Jackson was imprisoned at the age of eighteen for the rest of his life, for a 75 dollar gas station robbery, until he was gunned down during a prison riot and attempted escape. And it was his eloquent indignation against injustice and racism, a soaring intellect and profound understanding of class warfare, the human urge to revolutionary struggle, and his subversive political charisma that all contributed to sealing his fate.

Embracing the teachings of Marx, Lenin and Che in prison, Jackson's gift as a lightening rod for inmate rage made him a target for institutional brutality and long gestating execution by the authorities. The film Black August touches on his final days and unwavering political defiance to the end. And his evolving relationship with and impact on David Drye, played by Darren Bridgett, the editor of Soledad Brother, Jackson's historic bestselling collection of letters from prison.

Gary Dourdan of the TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, ignites the screen with a magnificent performance as the imploding, mesermizing, and paradoxically streetwise and gifted intellectual Jackson, and he gets it just right. Though a number of key aspects defining that politically incendiary time are barely touched upon, including the potent Panther teachings and ideological roots that inspired and transformed Jackson early on, as well as his complex relationship with professor and revolutionary Angela Davis. And the COINTELPRO elaborate domestic espionage FBI operation of informants and orchestrated illegal infiltration and sabotage that ultimately contributed to destruction the left in this country, makes a significant appearance in the film, though in a much too offhanded and minimalist way. Black August is nevertheless a devastating portrait of the life and times of one of America's most courageous anti-racist people's soldiers in the ongoing battle for justice and equality.

Director TCinque Sampson said he wanted to bring the story of the tremendously influential life of George Jackson to the screen upon his own release from prison. “People have heard about George Jackson and Angela Davis, but they don’t know much about them or their work,” Sampson said. “George Jackson was a man who believed that human life is meaningless if it is not accompanied by the power to determine its quality. And he knew those in control never concede anything, unless it is demanded of them.”

Black August is being released on DVD from Warner Home Video in conjunction with Black History Month, 2008.

Prairie Miller

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