Documentarian Shola Lynch, who previously profiled Shirley Chisholm's groundbreaking run for president, turns her lens on another significant African American female figure from the early '70s in "Free Angela and All Political Prisoners." Applying her "historical vérité" style to one of the most publicized trials in one of the most combative and hopeful periods in U.S. (and California) annals, she has assembled a detailed oral history. At its center is a new and lengthy interview with Angela Davis.
"Free Angela," though, does not tell Davis' story — as an intellectual, radical and educator — in full onscreen. Though the film provides basic background info, its focus is her 1972 trial in San Jose. After guns linked to Davis were used in an attack on a Marin County courthouse that turned deadly, the UCLA philosophy instructor wound up on the
Lynch builds her chronicle from firsthand accounts by Davis, her sister, friends and defense attorneys, as well as an FBI agent and journalists. Along with a vast array of (mostly unlabeled) clips, stills, courtroom sketches and headlines, the film judiciously deploys dialogue-free reenactments, which inject visual poetry into an otherwise straightforward telling.
"Free Angela and All Political Prisoners." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes. At AMC Universal Citywalk Stadium 19, Universal City; AMC Ontario Mills 30, Ontario.