There's a scene in "Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975," which opened earlier this month in New York and is just starting to make its way around the country, where Angela Davis, one of the most influential and articulate leaders to come out of the Black Power movement, is being interviewed by Swedish journalists. She was in prison awaiting a murder trial that, in hindsight, was based on pretty flimsy evidence, and her usual poise and reserve started to crack a bit. As she recounted the violence that she witnessed at the hands of whites during her upbringing in Alabama, she looks worn down and tired, her eyes edging with tears. This icon of the time -- lauded by some, vilified by many others -- suddenly seems very human.
Culled from a treasure trove of film shot by Swedish journalists who flocked to the U.S. to cover the movement, "Black Power" is a fascinating mosaic of interviews and footage. There's footage of other African-American leaders at the time, like Black Panthers Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver in their trademark leather jackets and black berets. Stokeley Carmichael is seen both giving acerbic, witty speeches and having a drink with friends. On a larger level, the movie captures the energy, enthusiasm, and impatience of the movement in the mid-sixties that collapsed into confusion and disillusionment in the '70s, due to assassinations, race riots, war, and the spread of drugs. For anyone remotely interested in history, this movie will prove to be mesmerizing.
Also opening this weekend is Andrew Haigh's "Weekend." The movie concerns two gay men, Russel (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), in the English city of Nottingham, who meet in a club, hook up, and spend the weekend together talking about love, sex, and what it means to be gay, before Glen permanently decamps for Portland, Oregon. It sounds like the sort of movie destined to appeal to a small specialty audience. At one point, Glen seems to channel the frustrations of the director when he describes one of his upcoming gay-themed art projects.
"Gays will only come because they're hoping to see some [male genitalia] and they'll be disappointed, and straights won't come because it's about gay sex. They'll come to see things about famine, rape, disease, whatever. But not gay sex, not that!"
"Weekend" is too well shot, acted, and written to just be written off as the gay "Before Sunrise." It quietly builds to a surprising, poignant, and heartbreaking portrait of two people struggling to communicate that transcends its niche.
See the trailer for "Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975', and "Weekend":