Counting down to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (something which, if boyhood memory serves, was televised live, at least in New York) and the Martin Luther King speech which rivals the Gettysburg Address as the most famous in U.S. history, BAMcinématek has an amazing, impressively researched series opening tomorrow, August 13, and continuing through August 28.
Encompassing documentaries, Hollywood movies, and archival finds, “A Time for Burning: Cinema of the Civil Rights Movement” attempts to recapture the exaltation, anger, and high drama of what amounted to a second American Revolution. The series opens with a new 35mm restoration of the 1970 Sidney Lumet-Joseph L. Mankiewicz documentary portrait “King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis” and ends on the day of the march with a program of films (by James Blue, Haskell Wexler, Ed Emshwiller and the Cuban agitprop maestro Santiago Álverez) that recorded the event.
In between, “A Time for Burning” shows the struggle for civil rights as it was reflected in contemporary Hollywood movies (“A Raisin in the Sun”, “To Kill a Mocking Bird”), refracted in exploitation films (“The Intruder”, “Two Thousand Maniacs”), represented in independent cinema (the pioneering “Native Land”, “Nothing But a Man”), and documented as it was happening in Harlem, Chicago, New Orleans, and Mississippi.
Next Monday, August 19, is devoted to docs by, about, and with James Baldwin; documentarian Madeline Anderson will appear on August 22 on a bill of her short “reports,” many of which were first televised on William Greaves’s news program “Black Journal”—which has its own day, along with Greaves’s controversial 1968 documentary feature “Still a Brother.”
It’s an epic show, a total immersion, and for some might even be an awakening.