Film Review: NATIONTIME (directed by William Greaves)

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by Lamont Williams on December 23, 2020

in Film


It’s revolutionary, dynamic, riveting, and jaw-droppingly relevant. But this documentary — more like an extended news reel — takes place in 1972 at the National Black Political Convention, in which Black leaders, politicians, activists and artists came together to voice a Black agenda, now that this neglected community has been abandoned by both political parties.

You almost feel like a fly on the wall at the convention, where 10,000 African-Americans came to discuss and advocate for black communities that undergo significant economic and social crisis. Part of their goal was to raise the number of black politicians elected to office, increase representation, and create an agenda for fundamental change. The convention also issued the Gary Declaration, which stated that the American political system was failing black Americans and that the only way to address this problem was to transition to independent black politics.

Filmmaker William Greaves’ 1972 documentary Nationtime, narrated by Sidney Poitier, covers the Convention. Considered too radical for television broadcast at the time, it has since circulated only in a heavily edited 60-minute version. The new restoration, long thought lost and unearthed in a Pittsburgh warehouse in 2018, returns the film to its original 80-minute length and colorful visual quality 48 years after the convention took place. This version has been released with funding from Jane Fonda and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and is now available at Kino Now.

One of the most riveting times came when Harry Belafonte recited poems to the crowd. It’s amazing how such eloquence can be so inciteful and a cause to action. Delegates included Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, Coretta Scott King, Pan-Africanist Artist and Activist Amiri Baraka, Dr. Betty Shabazz, PUSH founder Rev. Jesse Jackson, Fannie Lou Hamer and Queen Mother Moore, and elected officials Ron Dellums, Charles Diggs, Walter Fauntroy, Richard Hatcher, Carl McCall. Activists and entertainers Belafonte, Dick Gregory, Isaac Hayes and Richard Roundtree performed for the crowds over the three days. It’s a snapshot in time that proves how slow change comes in America.

in English / U.S. / 1973 / 80 min.
available on Kino Now

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