(2012) Directed by Shola Lynch 102 mins.
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners is an extremely well made documentary examining the life and activism of one of the best known American radicals of the 1960s and 1970, Angela Davis. The documentary traces Davis’ political activism in the lead up to and during her trail in 1971, where she was accused of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy.
Davis – an outspoken Marxist, academic and activist – came to national prominence in the US due to attempts to fire her for her teaching job at the University of California for her political beliefs. Davis, who was an outspoken supporter and campaigner for political prisoners, black rights and women’s rights, was also a member of the Communist Party and a sympathiser of the Black Panther Party. Free Angela and All Political Prisoners documents the witch hunt against Davis and the Black Panthers by the FBI and the US government.
In 1970, Davis was placed on the top 10 FBI “Wanted Listed, accused of aiding and abetting in the murder of a US Judge, a juror and prosecutor. The three had been killed, along with two black prisoners, in a shoot out in a car park after 17 year old Jonathan Jackson entered the Marin Court House and attempted to free the black prisoners using guns which had been purchased by Davis.
Davis, who initially went underground, was later arrested and charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy and stood trial in 1971. Remarkably Davis gave the opening statement at her own trial, rather than her lawyer. In the statement she declared herself innocent of all charges. In the wake of her arrest and trial, a mass solidarity movement was launched to defend her both inside the USA and internationally. Within a month of her trial starting there were more than 200 local committees in the USA and 67 committees internationally campaigning in defence of Davis, calling for her to be freed.
Davis was eventually found not guilt of all three charges by an all white jury. Once released from jail, Davis eventually returned to teaching and continued to be active in the Communist Party and continued to campaign, as she had done before her arrest, for the rights of political prisoners.
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners not only draws on interviews with Davis today, but also includes a wealth of archival footage and images documenting Davis’ activism in the 1960s and her trial. The documentary is also wonderful account of the broader activism of the period. It showcases not only Davis’ dedication and commitment to social justice and revolutionary struggle, but it is also an inspiring account of solidarity and struggle in the face of overwhelming odds.