Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary: Speaking Truth to Power from Inside a Supermax Prison

Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary: Speaking Truth to Power from Inside a Supermax Prison
  • comments (3)
  • Print

Mumia Abu-Jamal was a journalist for the Black Panther newspaper, an NPR correspondent, and the voice by which you'd most likely prefer to be read to sleep. But the activist, journalist, and father of three was convicted in 1982 of killing a police officer in Philadelphia and has spent 30 years on death row.

This documentary is not an examination of the circumstances of Abu-Jamal's conviction—if you're looking for the juicy details, or a hot back-and-forth between factions for and against, you'll have to find another movie. This film implies that Abu-Jamal's innocence or guilt should be viewed in the context of racial politics, but more importantly, that his culpability is a moot point.

It's a compelling case to look at justice and the practice of journalism in America with a little skepticism. Abu-Jamal's story has been spun wildly. Philly hates Abu-Jamal. France loves Abu-Jamal. He's a cop killer or a revolutionary. The state would keep him silent, as if death row weren't enough of a gag. And yet, working with whatever constitutional protections still apply to a convicted murderer, Abu-Jamal churns out criticism on a weekly basis, is published more widely than most working journalists, and has written several books (by hand).

Film and audio of Abu-Jamal is electrifying, but in between are weird cartoons and live-action dramatizations of his writings. This is no primer on black power, the history of journalistic practice, or the prison- industrial complex. Viewers who read up a little beforehand on the case will have a better chance of navigating all the context the filmmakers take for granted. They'll also have more time to confront the idea that Abu-Jamal's indictment and stacked trial are themselves endorsement of his writings, and to question whether his unflinchingly honest journalism is somehow compromised if he is guilty. recommended


Comments (3) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
There is already a movie on Mumia's case, it's called 'Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case for Reasonable Doubt?'
Posted by paula_7 on February 24, 2013 at 1:00 PM · Report this
A couple of things:

First...he did it. I mean, come on, he did it. His gun was used to shoot the officer, he had the motive, he was seen doing it...whatever else the man might be, he's a murderer.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I don't find his writing that informative. It's unfortunate that what might otherwise be an interesting voice is locked in prison (though for good reason), because his views on everything are colored by the fact that he hasn't been in the world since 1982. The world has changed in 30 years, and he hasn't seen it. And so his voice is very much a voice commenting on what life was like in the past. It's like someone from 1935 commenting on 1965 -- there's just no way you could understand what you've missed.

To the extent he understands anything of the modern world, it's through the lens of inmates. And while I suppose someone has to share that perspective, it just doesn't tell me a lot about the world outside -- the world that he's actually commenting about.
Posted by AnotherBob on February 26, 2013 at 9:56 PM · Report this
An eloquent cop killer is still a murderer by any other name. He's deplorable, and so are the people who give him attention.
Posted by unclezeke on February 27, 2013 at 7:40 AM · Report this

Add a comment