'Black And Blue' A Move-ing Film

Posted: April 10, 1987

One minute, a surrendering Delbert Africa is on the ground being kicked and beaten by helmeted police. The next minute, Edward G. Rendell, who was district attorney at the time, is seen saying that this action "can't be viewed as an isolated film clip. It has to be seen in the context of the events that came before."

Hugh King and Lamar Williams can, in a way, relate to what Rendell's saying. Their claim is that what happened between MOVE and police in August 1978 - or, for that matter, in May 1985 - cannot be viewed as isolated incidents.

The two filmmakers place those events squarely within what they view as a perpetual state of war between Philadelphia's police and the city's racial minorities.

Their hour-long documentary, "Black and Blue," which premieres tonight at the Theater of the Living Arts, attempts not only to define a long-standing pattern of racially motivated police brutality, but also to place such local history within a larger historical context of the ways in which increasing demands by minorities for equal protection under the law have collided with the imperatives held by those enforcing the law.

A relentless, almost chaotic bombardment of images - the majority of them showing funerals, demonstrations and street battles - is deployed to drive home the anger and frustration black and Hispanic Philadelphians have felt in the face of several incidents of police violence over the last two decades.

"It's meant to be disquieting. We want people to feel the impact of what we're showing here," said King, a veteran of more than 20 televised and theatrically released documentaries. He began assembling footage for the film in 1977 - around the time when complaints of police brutality and harassment were drawing the city national notoriety.

Williams, a former Channel 6 production assistant, joined the project in 1979 as co-director and became involved in filming a story that kept developing before his eyes.

The still-disputed 1978 police killing of Muslim vendor Winston CX Hood while Hood allegedly was handcuffed was among the first of many such controversies caught by the volunteer crew members working for King and Williams. Also photographed was detailed footage of the first violent controntation between MOVE and the police.

"It was hard to figure when to stop (filming), because things kept happening," said Williams, whose close friend, onetime radio journalist Mumia Abu Jamal, was interviewed while serving a life sentence for the 1981 shooting death of police officer Daniel Faulkner. The question of Jamal's guilt or innocence isn't dealt with so much as the question put forth by Jamal

himself: "If Mumia Abu Jamal had died and Faulkner had lived, would he be here?"

The momentum for the project began to sag slightly between the Green and Goode administrations when, Williams said, "there was supposed to be this resurgence and renewal (of good will)."

Then came May 13, 1985, which, in King's words, "put the cap on the bottle." That was the day police dropped an explosive device atop MOVE's Osage Avenue house, setting of a fire that killed 11 people and destroyed 61 homes.

The film's fiercest montages, in fact, emerge when the MOVE bombing comes up. When Mayor Goode is shown taking "responsibility" for the disasterous strategy on Osage Avenue, he is followed by a film clip of Malcolm X trenchantly making the distinction between "house Negroes and field Negroes."

"It has a definite point-of-view. We don't apologize for that," King said. "We're expecting a lot of mixed reactions from a lot of people, and that's fine with us. As long as we make them think."

IF YOU GO

"Black and Blue" will be shown at 8 p.m. at the Theater of the Living Arts, 334 South St. An extended run is planned for April 20-23 at the TLA- Roxy, 2021 Sansom St.

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