On the eve of June 16, the Tribeca Festival concluded with Rev. Al Sharpton’s documentary “Loudmouth” at the premiere, which brought together Sharpton and Spike Lee – two towering New York figures, each of whom is slandered and glorified for career racial justice.
Saturday’s event at Borough of Manhattan Community College celebrated Sharpton with a big-screen portrait common to older generations of civil rights leaders, but the 67-year-old activist ran away to Loudmouth. “Loudmouth” contextualizes Sharpton’s legacy as a sequel to Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Representative John Lewis and others, while describing his unique longevity despite many skeptics along the way.
“Make your best shot,” Sharpton told Q&A after the film. I’m still here.
Lee, a longtime friend who chose Sharpton in a small role in Malcolm X in 1992, hailed Sharpton for being “there from the beginning, fighting the good fight.”
“Everybody takes a hit, but you got up and kept walking,” said Lee, who joined Sharpton and John Legend, the film’s executive producer, on stage. “And you’re still doing it today.”
Loudemouth, which is seeking distribution at Tribeca, was introduced by Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro. He made a firm distinction between Sharpton and others “noisy” on today’s air and the January 6 hearings in Washington.
“How interesting that the commission and the reverend are on the same page, exposing the lies and lies that threaten our democracy,” De Niro said. “They want to take away our right to vote and deny us social justice. As Washington deals with lies and the big lie, tonight you are in the company of a patriot who challenges us to the truth.
“Loudmouth,” directed by Josh Alexander, is set around a sitting interview with Sharpton, who describes its story as a constant struggle to preserve social justice in the headlines. “No one is calling me a secret,” Sharpton told the George Floyd Memorial.
For Sharpton, that was his goal — the man of the blast, he once called himself — to tirelessly agitate and provoke enough media attention and shed light on injustice. Of course, this approach won Sharpton many detractors – almost all of them white – who rebuked him as a racial opportunist. This was especially after his involvement in the 1987 Attic Brawley case, whose allegation that she was raped and abducted by a group of men from Duchess County, New York, was later found to have been fabricated by a special state grand jury.
Sharpton in the film claims that his mission in this case and others has always been to give someone his day in court. Prior to the film, Alexander said Sharpton’s only request was “to fix the context.” And in a number of other cases, Sharpton has been there to advocate, counsel, and support blacks. Family members Floyd, Eric Garner and others were in the audience on Saturday.
“It just makes you realize that anyone who makes a fuss about justice, especially an oppressed minority, will always be treated as a persona non grata in society,” Legend said. “They will always be unpopular to some extent because they are struggling to break the status quo that protects many people.”
When Legend approached Sharpton about making the documentary, he and the producers surprised Sharpton with the idea that it would be directed by Alexander, a white Jewish director from California. They say the film will be more objective from a white director’s point of view, Sharpton said.
I said, “I’ll tell you what. If it works, I will be there to worship. If not, I will picket you from the outside, “Sharpton said.
The legend – whom Sharpton praised as a pop star and “crossover artist” who dared to join a figure considered by some to be “risky” – said he was discouraged by what he saw as a backlash against retribution. Floyd’s death and the last battles for school textbooks. But Legend said he found inspiration watching Sharpton in Loudmouth.
“Every time we make progress, there is a backlash and the backlash is, ‘Oh, we have to control this story,'” Legend said. “Everyone knows how important the story is and how important it is who tells the story and what perspectives are presented.”
Lee, who twice mentioned that he was traumatized by an early school trip to see “Gone with the Wind”, said “The Voice” should be shown in schools. As a chronicle of the front lines of racial tension in New York, Lee said it was a valuable reminder.
“You have to show that racism doesn’t really have a specific zip code,” said Lee, who wore a 1619 hat. “This is not Shangri-La. There are a lot of confusing things here that continue today. ”
Sharpton often returned to the question of how much has changed in the last half century. Sharpton recently praised several victims in Buffalo of last month’s racist massacre that killed 10 people in a supermarket. However, he said he also saw great progress and more black people in power than ever.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Sharpton said. “But we’ve made enough paths in the woods to believe we can get out.”