DGA, Los Angeles (October 2015)
St Louis, Woodstock, Nashville International Black Festival, International Family Film Festival, numerous university and museum screenings
A portrait of the civil rights pioneer and Georgia congressman.
Well-timed for its PBS debut, celebrating Black History Month and coming just weeks after President Trump wrongheadedly insulted the congressman, Dowdey’s hour-long biography is unfortunately too conventional in its construction and too limited in its scope to do its subject justice, but serves, at least, as a brief primer of the man’s many accomplishments for the curious viewer. While in the works on and off for decades, the film condenses more than fifty years of public service into just a few short episodes, including his awakening as an activist after being inspired by a speech by Martin Luther King Jr in 1955, his participation in Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, his participation as a Freedom Rider; his role in organizing the historic 1963 March on Washington as chariman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and his leadership during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights. His later turn to politics, serving in the House of Representatives since 1987, and his leadership role there is only conveyed in brief sequences towards the film’s end, where the congressman is shown supporting President Obama’s health care bill and later organized a Democratic sit-in protesting congressional inaxction on gun control.