Around forty to fifty years after they were recorded, film of Swedish news broadcasts from the late sixties to the mid-seventies was discovered in a vault, footage that had not seen the light of day ever since then. Director Göran Olsson decided this was too good to keep quiet and assembled a documentary film from the clips, accompanied by narration from a variety of people, some of whom were around at the time of the recording and some from observers of all those years later. What was this footage about? It was a more extensive catalogue of the Black Power movement in The United States of America than would ever have appeared on American television, for the Swedes were engrossed by the Civil Rights struggles raging across the Atlantic, and this was exhaustive...
Only in comparison to other countries' news broadcasts, of course, though the motives behind these young, liberal, would-be hip documentarians' capturing of interviews with the Black Power movers and shakers were far less examined than anything of the Americans they interacted with. The point was that the African American struggle gave rise to all sorts of drives for equality, not only in the States but across the globe, inspiring female emancipation and gay rights, for instance, but not given the credit they deserved. Was that racism too? After watching this, you would be seeing that bigotry across the media, politics, your lives, as it makes the case that there was a whole lot wrong with the treatment of non-whites that sadly has not gone away, there were reasons for that too.
This began with a Floridan diner owner opining America was the greatest nation in the world because anyone with a little gumption and self-respect could go on to success there, yet this is contrasted with the black community in the same town who complain that since they have returned from fighting the Vietnam War there have been no opportunities for them to break out of the poverty trap, and we are invited to regard this as a racism trap as well. No wonder, as what plays out over the seven years of assassinations, wrongful arrests and brutality from the supposed law enforcers and keepers of the peace is enough to disillusion anybody. All the way through we are well aware this remains outsiders' view of the country, but it is the locals we are hearing from time and again.
This operated as a rundown of the basics of the Black Power struggles as the Black Panthers tried to make life better for the denizens of the inner cities who were subjected to prejudice every day of their existence. Stokely Carmichael initially makes a strong impression as a man demanding his race stand up to the violence doled out to them (the clip of him interviewing his mother is unexpectedly tender), and this characterises the movement as one of armed, violent response towards whites, as if they were the victims here. Later, Angela Davis, who spent a year and a half behind bars on pathetically trumped up charges to keep her quiet is interviewed and she makes it clear Black Power is about improving the lot of her people, not an armed revolution - but then the powers that be nip that in the bud by flooding their communities with enough drugs and cheap guns to ensure it falls apart in infighting and overdoses, a scandal enforced by the police and never really addressed in the mainstream. That even in the twenty-first century we are having the conversation, at the top of our voices in some cases, that racism needs to stop, indicates that something revolutionary did begin in what we see here, but also that some things, some awful things, have never changed. Music by Ommas Keith and Quest Love (like a mixtape).