Below is a review I submitted to the Socialist Worker over a year ago concerning the film Black August, a film which received far too little reception by the dominant cultural institutions. It was understandable, of course, considering the immensely political nature of the film and the deep-rooted criticisms which it explored. For those of you who have not yet seen it, however, I highly suggest it. It is imperative, in my opinion, that we on the left appropriate mediums of expression, such as film, to a much higher degree than we do now. There are limits, of course, given the framework in which we operate, but articulating ourselves and expressing ideas in ways other than pamphlets and study groups is essential if we are going to create a true culture of resistance. Black August deserves to be one of the pieces of cultural resistance...
The George Jackson Story
BLACK AUGUST, a film about prison activist George Jackson released on DVD on February 12, presents a prodigious indictment of the U.S. judicial system.
By Derek Ide | March 28, 2008 | Issue 667
Jackson, at 18 years old, was sentenced one year to life for a $70 gas station robbery. The maximum sentence was intended for Jackson, especially once he began organizing for the Black Panther Party after being recruited by co-founder Huey Newton.
Jackson became an integral organizer in San Quentin prison. The film covers the last 14 months of his life, after his political transformation and during his attempts to pen his book Soledad Brother. The story focuses around his ordeals and problems inside the jail, along with his relatives and their struggles to free him outside of prison.
George's younger brother, Jonathan--played by Ezra Stanley--becomes increasingly determined in attempting to get his brother out of prison. Frustrated, in 1970, he attempts to take a judge hostage in exchange for George. Ultimately, Jonathan and those with him, including the judge, are shot down as they try to escape.
George remains locked in prison, and the guards continue their abuse of him, which ranges from simple harassment to violent beat downs. As a desperate last alternative, Jackson formulates a plot with outside help to gain his freedom.
The acting in the film ranges from below par to outstanding. Some of the characters are rather flat and unconvincing, while others, such as Angela Davis (played by Tina Marie Murray), skillfully capture the essence of their characters.
For those unfamiliar with Jackson's life, the plot will be full of twists and suspense, but those viewers aware of the events should not worry. Some surprises surrounding this Soledad Brother and his life may be revealed throughout the film.
Black August shines as an example of a heartfelt story of revolution woven into a quality film. It is no wonder this movie never made it in the theaters. For those interested in the life of George Jackson, or those who know nothing about him, this is a must-see.