Henry Louis Gates Jr. hosts some pretty heady programs. His latest: The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song(PBS Distribution). This powerful history of the Black church in America takes us from his own experience onto a 400-year journey throughout which the church has been the Black community’s abiding rock and its fortress. As Gates brilliantly shows, the Black church has never been only one thing, and its story lies at the vital center of the civil rights movement, having produced leaders such as Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
also penned an essential companion to the series of the same name (Penguin Press, $30); a tome loaded with countless photos, as written as the special is hosted.
Also hosted by Gates: Gates Finding Your Roots: Season 6(PBS Distribution).
Jeff Joseph (guru of SabuCat Productions), film archivist, historian, author and producer, has produced a remarkable collection of rare and “lost” classic television programs.
The Television’s Lost Classics series has been lovingly restored in high definition from the best archival film elements available; some of the programs have not been seen since they were originally broadcast. The first volume will be released on September 11, 2018; volume two follows on October 9, 2018. Both will be released on Blu-ray and DVD by VCI Entertainment, with distribution by MVD Entertainment.
Additional volumes are planned with the third in the series already in production for release in late 2018. We will keep you posted.|
Both have been restored by SabuCat Productions from the best archival film elements available in high definition; some of the programs have not been seen since they were originally broadcast.
A peek inside . . .
The ’50s produced a treasure trove of live dramatic programs originating from New York. Top talent from stage and screen were retained for both in front and back of the camera. These two prime examples convey the feeling of watching a Broadway performance, but with the advantage of abundant and intimate close-ups and medium shots. They are surprisingly cinematic, especially considering the impediments those behind the camera had to face: Clunky cameras, hot lights, quick set changes, live music and sound effects and always being mindful of keeping microphones out of the frame. The highlights of these programs are the intense performances by John Cassavetes, with his variation of method acting displayed in full form.
The first program, Crime in the Streets, was broadcast live on ABC, Tuesday, March 8, 1955. It was written by Reginald Rose and directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Robert Preston and a young Cassavetes. The second program, No Right to Kill, was part of the Climax! series and was presented by the Chrysler Corporation. It is based on Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and adapted for TV by Victor Wolfson. It was broadcast on CBS, Thursday, August 9, 1956. Nostalgia buffs will enjoy the original commercial messages that are included in the episode. Also included: A bonus blooper reel from The Defenders and The Nurses series.
This set contains four rare TV pilots. Case of the Sure Thing, starring Reed Hadley, Louise Currie and Milburn Stone, introduced the series Racket Squad, which lasted for three seasons and was nominated for two Emmys. An interesting side-note: This program may have inspired parts of the Hollywood hit, The Sting.
This episode was first broadcast on CBS, Thursday, June 7, 1951 and starred Reed Hadley as Captain Braddock, and was written by Arthur Orloff. Note: Contains original network commercials as originally broadcast on CBS.
Cool and Lam, starring Billy Pearson, Benay Venuta, Alison Hayes and Sheila Bromley, is a light-hearted, detective yarn featuring characters first created by Erle Stanley Gardner. Bertha Cool runs a detective agency and Donald Lam is her junior partner, hence “Cool and Lam”. Directed by the legendary Jacques Tourneur
The Life of Riley, starring Lon Chaney, Jr., Rosemary DeCamp and John Brown, is a lost pilot which starred Lon Chaney, Jr. as Chester Riley. This stand-alone episode was produced in 1948 but by the time the first season went into full production in 1949, Chaney had been replaced by no less than Jackie Gleason.
Nero Wolfe, starring Kurt Kasznar, William Shatner and Alexander Scourby, has characters created by Rex Stout. Kasznar is Nero Wolfe, with future star Shatner co-starring.
Included on the disc is a bonus CBS Blooper Reel hosted by James Arness.
The Carol Burnett Show turns 50! To celebrate the momentous occasion, CBS honored the groundbreaking comedy series with The Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special, which aired to a whopping 15.4 million viewers on Sunday, December 3, 2017.
Nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special, the one-night event, which was filmed at the series’ original soundstage at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, features Burnett; original cast members Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner; costume designer Bob Mackie; and a slew of special guests, including Jon Batiste, Beth Behrs, Jim Carrey, Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Colbert, Harry Connick Jr., Kaley Cuoco, Bill Hader, Steve Lawrence, Jay Leno, Jane Lynch, Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Amy Poehler, Tracee Ellis Ross, Maya Rudolph and Martin Short.
Now, with The Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special DVD home audiences can join the party and laugh along with Carol and her famous friends, as they revisit the show’s most hilarious clips, catch up with cast members, and enjoy brand-new musical performance.
The most uproarious clips from the landmark series, including “Went With The Wind,” “The Dentist,” “Tudball & Wiggins” and “The Family”
Carol does a bit of her beloved Q&A with the star-studded 50th Anniversary audience including questions from Pat Boone and Tom Selleck.
Carol’s guests try out her famous Tarzan yell—Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Tracee Ellis Ross all give it a go, but a late, video entry wins the day . . . that of Steve Carell.
Jim Carrey’s 10-year-old self re-enacts receiving a reply to his Carol Burnett Show fan letter
Stephen Colbert, Steve Lawrence, Bernadette Peters, Kristin Chenoweth and Carol all come together for a brand-new musical number
Harry Connick, Jr. and Carol close out the night with an emotional performance of the show’s theme song – “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together”
Exclusive new bonus features including red-carpet footage, backstage interviews and anniversary wishes from Carol’s friends and fans
A tribute booklet with production photos, notes from Carol’s guests,and a special message from Carol herself
She is a goddess. Really.
Currently wowing audiences with her Tony-nominated performance in Carousel, Grammy-winning soprano Renée Fleming has released Broadway (Decca Classics), a CD celebrating musical theatre. The album features a diverse array of songs for the stage by composers including Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Pasek & Paul, and Rodgers & Hammerstein, as well as a special guest duet with the Hamilton, television and film star, Leslie Odom, Jr.
Says Fleming, “The great, classic Broadway musicals were central to my childhood. I sang Eliza Doolittle twice before I was even out of high school. This repertoire is so rich, and the sheer quality of the music is so high, that it’s been a joy to record these songs. And along with the growth of popular music, the sound of musical theater has evolved over time. Composers like Jeanine Tesori, and Pasek and Paul, and even popular music icons like Sting, have enriched the genre. It’s a living art form, enjoying a real boom right now, and it was a thrill for me to be able to include phenomenal songs that are absolutely current.”
The new recording features a wide range of Broadway hits from the ’20s to the present, in sumptuous orchestrations, many commissioned specially for this album.
Among the songs are “The Sound of Music”, “The Glamorous Life” from A Little Night Music; “Tell Me on A Sunday” from Song and Dance; “Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific; “Fable” from The Light in the Piazza; and “So Big So Small” from Dear Evan Hansen. Fleming’s collaborators include Rob Fisher as music supervisor and conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, as well as the incomparable bassist and jazz great Christian McBride, rising star pianist Dan Tepfer and Grammy-winning producer David Frost.
Listen closely: Listen and you will understand why she is a goddess.
American Masters—Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lives in now on DVD and Digital HD. The new program, co-produced by Albert M. Tapper Productions, in association with Major League Baseball, David Ortiz’ Big Papi Productions and Nick Davis Productions, explores not only the Baseball Hall of Famer’s remarkable on-field accomplishments but also his complicated relationships with family, teammates, press, fans and himself.
During his remarkable career with the Boston Red Sox, Williams earned many nicknames—The Kid, The Splendid Splinter and Teddy Ballgame, but the only nickname that he wanted was “the greatest hitter who ever lived.” In that pursuit, he combined his preternatural gifts with a fierce work ethic to become widely regarded as one of the greatest ever to play the game of baseball and in the process elevated the science of hitting in ways still emulated today.
Through never-before-seen archival footage and in-depth interviews with those who knew and studied Williams, including his daughter Claudia Williams, author/journalist Ben Bradlee, Jr., veteran baseball writer Roger Angela, and award-winning broadcasters Bob Costas and the late Dick Enberg, the program demonstrates the power of the heroic myth-making culture in which Williams flourished. Lesser-known topics explored int eh film include Williams’ Mexican-American background, his experiences serving during World War II and the Korean War, and his deep rage over his mother’s virtual abandonment of him and his younger brother.
Narrated by Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Jon Hamm, the documentary also looks at the legendary player’s impact on the game of baseball and his relevance in the almost 60 years since his retirement, highlighted by Williams’ iconic achievement—he is the last player to hit over .400, finishing the 1941 season batting .406. Former players—including Baseball Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Wade Boggs, three-time All-Star Jim Kaat and current Cincinnati Reds first baseman and former National League MVP Joey Votto—share how Williams’ philosophy, commitment to greatness and approach to hitting influenced them in the film.
June will be bustin’ out all over, and when it does, get ready for some exciting new DVD releases from PBS Distribution. Let us share some of the news . . .
Nature: Natural Born Rebels (available June 5) From a promiscuous prairie dog to a kleptomaniac crab and an alpha chimpanzee who reigns with an iron fist, this three-part series introduces the most rebellious animals in the natural world. But are these creatures really breaking bad?
Across the world, new studies are uncovering an astonishing variety of rebellious animal behaviors, and despite how it appears on the surface, researchers are discovering the complex and fascinating science behind why these animals behave the way they do. In fact, being a rebel could be the key to success in the wild.
Secrets of the Dead: Hannibal in the Alps (available June 5) Hannibal, one of history’s most famous generals, achieved what the Romans thought to be impossible. With a vast army of 30,000 troops, 15,000 horses and 37 war elephants, he crossed the mighty Alps in only 16 days to launch an attack on Rome from the north.
For more than 2,000 years, nobody has been able to prove which of the four possible routes Hannibal took across the Alps, and no physical evidence of Hannibal’s army has ever been found until now. In this program, viewers will follow a team of experts–explorers, archaeologists and scientists–combine state-of-the-art technology, ancient texts, and a recreation of the route itself to prove conclusively where Hannibal’s army made it across the Alps – and exactly how he did it.
Chinese Exclusion Act (available June 5) On May 6th, 1882, on the eve of the greatest wave of immigration in American history, President Chester A. Arthur signed into law a unique piece of federal legislation. Called the Chinese Exclusion Act, it singled out as never before a specific race and nationality for exclusion–making it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America–and for Chinese nationals already here to become citizens of the United States.
A deeply American story, this program examines the economic, cultural, social, legal, racial and political dimensions of the law; the forces and events that gave rise to it; and the effect it had, and continues to have, on American culture and identity.
The Jazz Ambassadors(available June 19)
The Cold War and Civil Rights movement collide in this remarkable story of music, diplomacy, and race. In 1955, as the Soviet Union’s pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, African-American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. For the next decade, America’s most influential jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck, along with their racially-integrated bands, traveled the globe to perform as cultural ambassadors.
But the unrest back home forced them to face a painful moral dilemma: how could they promote the image of a tolerant America abroad when the country still practiced Jim Crow segregation and racial equality remained an unrealized dream? Told through striking archival film footage, photos, and radio clips, with iconic performances throughout, this program reveals how the U.S. State Department unwittingly gave the burgeoning Civil Rights movement a major voice on the world stage just when it needed one most.
Nova: Decoding the Weather Machine (available June 26) Disastrous hurricanes. Widespread droughts and wildfires. Pervasive heat. Extreme rainfall. It’s not hard to conclude that something’s up with the weather – and many scientists agree this trend in the weather is not just a coincidence. It’s the result of the weather machine itself–the earth’s climate changing, becoming hotter and more erratic. Climate change is arguably the defining challenge of this century, yet widespread misunderstanding and misinformation has hampered the public’s ability to understand the science and address the issue. In this program, viewers will cut through the confusion and help define the way forward.
Why do scientists overwhelmingly agree that the climate is changing, and that human activity is causing it? How will it affect the world through the weather we experience, and when? And what will it take to bend the trajectory of planetary warming toward more benign outcomes? Join scientists around the globe on a quest to better understand the workings of the weather and climate machine we call Earth and discover how they are finding that we can be resilient – even thrive – in the face of enormous change.
Going to War War is the ultimate paradox. Filled with terror, pain, and grief, it brings exhilaration, and a profound sense of purpose. This program provides an insight that helps viewers make sense of this paradox and get to the heart of what it’s like to be a soldier in times of war. The film illuminates the experiences of training, battle, and coming home for soldiers across conflicts, revealing the universals of the warrior’s journey.
Leading the exploration are Sebastian Junger, bestselling author and director of the Academy Award-nominated film Restrepo, and Karl Marlantes, decorated Marine officer and author of the bestselling novel Matterhorn and the fearless memoir What It is Like to Go to War. Both men bring firsthand experience, hard-won wisdom, and an abiding commitment to telling the warrior’s story with insight and unflinching candor.
Indiepix has made is easy (and cost-efficient)to celebrate Black History Month. They have released a value-priced three film DVD box set, featuring three powerful, thought-provoking documentaries, each focusing on a different part of the African American experience. The must-see gems include The Nine Lives of Marion Barry, The Vanishing Black Male and In His Own Home.
With unprecedented access, The Nine Lives of Marion Barry, from filmmakers Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer, tells the continuing saga of this despised, beloved and resilient politician. It’s a potent story of race, power, sex and drugs; the tale of a complex and contradictory man who is the star of one of the most fascinating and bizarre chapters of American politics.
Many people remember Barry as the philandering drug-addled mayor, the one who famously uttered the phrase “bitch set me up” as he was arrested during an FBI sting in 1990. He’s the poster boy for corruption, a pariah who will never be forgiven for bringing shame on the nation’s capital. Yet to others, Marion Barry is a folk hero. Hailed as a civil rights champion and defender of the poor, he’s the man who transformed Washington, D.C. from a sleepy southern town into a political stronghold of Black America.
In 2005, director Hisani DuBose looked around and realized that with over one million black men incarcerated, and high homicide and death rates, the African American male just may be becoming an endangered species. So, she set out explore whether or not black men are in danger of becoming extinct in The Vanishing Black Male. In a provocative and probing documentary, actor Melvin Jackson, Jr. speaks with African American men of all walks- doctors, politicians, college students, teachers, law enforcement personnel and others–to determine the state of the black man in America. Edited by award-winner Alfred Santana, the compelling and incredibly timely exploration is interwoven with music, art and a series of monologues.
Before Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri, the headline-making killing of Trayvon Martin and the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers, there was the shocking 2010 shooting of Kofi Adu Brempong, a disabled Ghanaian graduate student attacked by University of Florida campus police responding to a 911 call. And though few media outlets outside of Gainseville reported the story, the powerful, hot-button documentary featurette, In His Own Home, recounts the events of that fateful March day and their aftermath: we watch live video of the police attack on Kofi’s apartment; we hear accounts of those who marveled at the number of snipers “ready to shoot at any time” as they surrounded the apartment of a lone student, as well as from fellow students who attest to Kofi’s peaceful demeanor; and, we hear from police officers who explain how they felt threatened and had to shoot.
And, in the aftermath, we bear witness to the administration’s shortcomings and the students and community activists who demand justice. Underlining a pattern of racism and police brutality, as well as the frightening “militiarization” of campuses nationwide, In His Own Home speaks to widespread and pervasive issues in our country that will, for the time being, remain among our most controversial and disconcerting.
Black Wings (PBS Distribution) For early aviators, conquering the forces of gravity was a daunting challenge. But black aviators had an additional challenge: to conquer the forces of racism.
Meet the men and women of color who took to the skies throughout the 20th century and helped prove to a segregated nation that skin color didn’t determine skill level. From biplanes to commercial jets, and from barnstormers to war fighters, meet the path-breaking pilots who opened the skies for all.
In the firmament of rock ‘n’ roll’s first-generation creators, no artist looms larger than Chuck Berry. In a consistently innovative recording career that spanned more than 60 years, the iconic singer-songwriter-guitarist, who passed away on March 18, 2017, laid much of the groundwork for modern rock ‘n’ roll, while creating some of rock’s most distinctive and enduring anthems, including “Johnny B. Goode”, “Roll Over Beethoven,”, “Rock and Roll Music” and “Reelin and Rockin”.
Geffen/UMe are paying tribute to the immortal spirit of Chuck Berry with the ultimate vinyl version of his landmark greatest hits compilation, The Great Twenty-Eight,with The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition.
The five-disc vinyl box set housed in a textured box, complements the original two-LP, 28-song compilation with an additional LP, More Great Chuck Berry, containing 14 more hits, rarities and B-sides missing from the original, as well as a rare live album, Oh Yeah! Live in Detroit, available on vinyl for the first time. The collection also include a newly created bonus ten-inch EP Berry Christmas, featuring four holiday-themed classics on “Rudolph-Red” vinyl, with one song on vinyl for the first time as well. A limited edition version on “Chess Blue” vinyl, limited to 500 copies.
Bob Dylan once called Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll.” John Lennon stated, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.'” As Keith Richards writes in the booklet intro, “Chuck Berry is the gentleman who started it all.”
And if those testimonials aren’t convincing enough, one listen to The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition will make the case for Chuck Berry’s singular, timeless rock ‘n’ roll brilliance.
Cruel and Unusual,a profound documentarytelling the story of three men—Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, known as the Angola 3. Wrongfully convicted for murdering a prison guard in 1972 at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, these men have spent longer in solitary than any other prisoners in the US. On his release, Albert Woodfox had spent 43 years in a six foot by nine foot cell for a crime he did not commit.
The film is available for sale and rental on Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, as well as DVD and Blu-ray.
Told in detail by interviews and prison phone calls from King, Wallace and Woodfox, Cruel and Unusual allows viewers to experience these men’s pain and anguish. From the worst of the worst in their cells, these men managed to find the best of the best that the human spirit has to offer. They have fought for justice and never accepted defeat so that no one else will ever suffer the way they did. A call to action, the film aims to support the growing campaign to end the overuse of long term solitary confinement in America’s prisons.
The rich history of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) began before the end of slavery, flourished in the 20th century, and profoundly influenced the course of the nation for over 150 years—yet remains largely unknown. This latest documentary from Stanley Nelson, America’s foremost film chronicler of the African American experience, is the powerful story of the rise, influence, and evolution of HBCUs come to life.
The story is told in Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities (PBS Distribution).
A haven for Black intellectuals, artists, and revolutionaries—and a path of promise toward the American dream—HBCUs have educated the architects of freedom movements and cultivated leaders in every field while remaining unapologetically Black for more than 150 years. These institutions have nurtured some of the most influential Americans of our time, from Booker T. Washington to Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois to Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison to Oprah Winfrey, Alice Walker to Spike Lee to Common.
After filmmaker Robert Mugge produced Black Wax with Gil Scott-Heron for Britain’s Channel 4 Television in 1982, he and Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for Music Andy Park wanted to collaborate again. Park suggested Mugge create a portrait of African American gospel star Andraé Crouch. But Mugge, a longtime fan of soul and pop singer Al Green, countered that suggestion. Mugge figured that Green’s rejection of soul music to become a Memphis-based preacher and gospel singer perhaps made him a richer potential subject. (Interestingly, Green was kicked out of the family home while in his teens, after his religiously devout father caught him listening to Jackie Wilson).
Park agreed. Mugge needed 13 months to secure Green’s approval, getting his approval only days before the planned Seventh Anniversary Celebration of Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle. That Sunday afternoon church service featured not only Green’s usual church choir and musicians, but also a second choir from Ellington, South Carolina and most of Green’s touring musicians and backup singers. Mugge arranged to document that December 18, 1983 service with three 16mm cameras and a 24-track audio recording truck, making it the first (and reportedly still the only) Al Green church service to be committed to film, Gospel According to Al Green.
While in Memphis, Mugge and his crew went on to film an interview with legendary Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell (who had produced and co-written Green’s commercial hits of the ‘70s), a studio rehearsal featuring Green and his musicians and an extended interview with Green himself. In Green’s interview, he explored his early days in the music business, his creation of such popular hits as “Tired of Being Alone” and “I Can’t Get Next to You”, the traumatic events that led to his abandoning of his successful soul and pop career, the purchase of the Memphis church building which he transformed into a church of his own, and the ways in which his soul and gospel backgrounds had each informed the other.
Perhaps the most emotional part of Green’s interview was his discussion of the so-called “hot grits incident,” wherein spurned girlfriend Mary Woodson White assaulted him in the shower of his Memphis home with a pot of boiling hot grits, then ran to another room of his house where she shot and killed herself. (Although she was already married, White reportedly became upset when Green refused to marry her). This interview, conducted two days after his church service, was the first occasion on which he discussed this experience publicly, and he included facts that even his own band members had never heard.
In February of 1984, Mugge also filmed Green and his band in concert at the Officers Club of Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., this time utilizing four 16mm cameras and the same Nashville-based 24-track recording truck he had hired to record the Memphis church service. It should be noted that, at that point in Rev. Green’s career, he had embraced the Southern fundamentalist notion that blues, rhythm ‘n’ blues, and rock n’ roll were “music of the Devil,” and that, therefore, he should now perform only gospel music.
However, among the numbers Green performed at the D.C. concert was Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” which exists somewhere between soul and gospel. In addition, during the staged rehearsal in Memphis, Green agreed to perform “Let’s Stay Together,” which had been one of his biggest commercial successes and now represented a recurring theme in the film. Along with fragments of a few more hits he performed during his interview, these songs helped to depict “Al Green the pop star” who had preceded “Al Green the pastor.”
Among the top Memphis musicians who appear in this film are, number one, Lawrence H. “Larry” Lee, Jr., who was best known for touring with Green and for performing at Woodstock and elsewhere with Jimi Hendrix’s Gypsy Sun and Rainbows; and number two, Mabon Lewis “Teenie” Hodges, who co-wrote Green’s hits “Take Me to the River” and “Love and Happiness” and toured and recorded widely as a guitarist with the Hi Records Rhythm Section. Lee can be seen performing in the church service and rehearsal sequences of the film, and Hodges can be heard, and briefly seen, playing incidental guitar behind Green during much of his interview. Sadly, both men are now deceased.
The resulting 96-minute film, Gospel According to Al Green, had its world premiere presentation in the summer of 1984 at Filmfest Munchen (a film festival in Munich, Germany), its television premiere over Britain’s Channel 4 later that fall, and its U.S. theatrical premiere at Coolidge Corner outside Boston a year later. After each of the two opening night screenings on October 25, 1985, Green sat on the Coolidge Corner stage and, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, freely offered the commercial hits that he had mostly refused to perform during the making of Mugge’s film, thereby demonstrating his storied unpredictability. Naturally, audience members at both shows were enchanted by his presentation, and since these and other premiere screenings, the film has been in constant release around the world.
As to Rev. Green—now Bishop Green—this past December, he and his congregation celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his Full Gospel Tabernacle church. For MVD Visual’s new worldwide Blu-ray and DVD releases, director Mugge has overseen 4K remastering of the film and created a new 17-minute video titled Soul and Spirit: Robert Mugge on the Making of Gospel According to Al Green. Other bonus features include audio of Green’s entire 1983 interview, audio of the climactic final hour of Green’s seventh anniversary church service, an extended film version of a key song from the church service, and the personal telephone answering machine message Green recorded for Mugge in the mid-’80s.
For more than 50 years, he has had one main goal: To continue an unwavering fight for justice. The life and career of John Lewis will be documented in the fascinating documentary John Lewis–Get in the Way. This is the first documentary biography of Lewis, the son of sharecroppers, who grew up in rural isolation, seemingly destined for a bleak future in the Jim Crow South.
But Lewis took a different path, rising from Alabama’s Black Belt to the corridors of power on Capitol Hill, his humble origins forever linking him to those whose voices often go unheard.PBS Distribution releases John Lewis–Get in the Way on April 18.The program will also be available for digital download.
The programcovers more than half a century, tracing Lewis’ journey of courage, confrontation and hard-won triumphs. At the age of 15, his life changed forever when he heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio. It was 1955, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Lewis listened with rapt attention as the young preacher called for nonviolent resistance to the harsh injustice of segregation. Lewis embraced Dr. King’s spiritual call with a fervor that would transform the course of his life.
As a student activist in the vanguard of the civil rights movement, Lewis was arrested and jailed for the first time during the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins in 1960. During the 1961 Freedom Rides, he was repeatedly assaulted by angry mobs. He was the youngest speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington, and in March 1965, Lewis led the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama, where state troopers attacked peaceful protesters with billy clubs, bullwhips and tear gas. Their horrific actions were broadcast on news reports into living rooms across America; eight months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.
Following a film festival run and featuring never-before-seen interviews shot over 20 years, the programfeatures Lewis, a masterful storyteller, relating the gripping tale of his role in these history-making events. Other key interviewees include civil rights activists Andrew Young, C.T. Vivian, Juanita Abernathy and Bernard Lafayette, as well as Lewis’ congressional colleagues Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Emanuel Cleaver and Amory Houghton.
Once an activist pushing from the outside, Lewis, now 77 years old, has become a determined legislator creating change from the inside. Considered by many to be the conscience of Congress, with equal measures of modesty and forcefulness, Lewis strives to persuade D.C. power brokers to hear the voices of the unheard. He fights for those suffering from discrimination, poverty, poor education, police brutality, inaccessible healthcare and limitations on voting rights. Despite setbacks—and there have been many—John Lewis’ eyes remain on the prize.