In the early 1970s, Angela Davis was a household name, not for dancing, singing or sports, but for her politics — she was public enemy number one. Davis was an open Communist with ties to the Black Panther Party (never a member, despite reports), intelligent, unapologetic and armed with the most dangerous weapon — knowledge.
Davis’ knowledge was so powerful that she was barred from teaching at any university in the State of California. The Birmingham, Alabama native became a political prisoner after being accused of involvement in the 1970 kidnapping and murder of a California judge. All of the controversy — none of which Davis brought upon herself — made her a global symbol for political prisoners. In the end, she was loved more than she was hated from people of all walks of life.
Directed by Shola Lynch, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners is a superbly executed doc from a political and emotional perspective. This is the first (and probably last) time Davis spoke about her trial, which eventually resulted in the acquittal from an all-white jury in June 1972.
Lynch presents the human side of Davis’ story with candid interviews from Davis, her family and historians. Free Angela is not a doc packed full of social agenda. Lynch goes to the core of Davis’ story, rising above politics. Davis was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List and wasn’t always the tough as nails, afro-wearing revolutionary we’ve seen in archival footage. She was a woman in love, on the run, fighting for her life and doubtful of a corrupt justice system. Her journey to freedom is fascinating to watch with the polish and intimacy created by Shola Lynch, who also directed the superb Chisholm ‘72: Unbought & Unbossed.
Most importantly, Lynch showed how Angela Davis ripped the door off the hinges for women and people of color who refuse to crumble under injustice. After watching Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, audiences will walk away rejuvenated, thankful and, surprisingly, proud of their country. Angela Davis’ journey is truly an all-American story. Being an American is not based on religion, race, gender or sexual orientation, it’s the willingness to walk in the legendary footsteps of the icons who fought for our right to exist.
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners opens in select cities on April 5.