Written by Stephen Vittoria
I was excited about bringing “Long Distance Revolutionary” to Copenhagen. When we submitted the film to CPH:DOX way back when, Katy Farzanrad and I knew that it was a vibrant, well-attended, and very “plugged-in” festival on the circuit… and it was Europe – a continent and a people that have embraced Mumia Abu-Jamal with open arms since the corrupt swine in this country imprisoned this revolutionary thirty-plus years ago. Like Cornel West eloquently says in the film:
“The state is very clever in terms of keeping track, especially with the courageous and visionary ones, the ones that are long distance runners. You can keep track of them, absorb em, dilute em, or outright kill em – you don't have to worry about opposition to em.”
The capital of Denmark, Copenhagen is an amazing old world city. Environmentally, it’s one of the cleanest and most “green” cities on the planet. Almost 40% of the city commutes by bicycle. And the people are remarkably peaceful, warm, and intelligent. They embrace culture… they embrace each other… and they embrace visitors. And one of those visitors they embraced at CPH:DOX with passion was a long distance revolutionary, a prisoner in the Empire’s gulag since 1982. Indeed, Copenhagen audiences took the journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Our film was sponsored at the festival and our screenings were hosted by Amnesty International… and thank god for Amnesty International in the world – an organization and a movement that has the courage to say the most powerful word in any language to the fraudulent powers in charge everywhere: NO. And it’s a word Amnesty spoke to the cretins slithering around the halls of so-called justice in Pennsylvania when it came to Mumia’s circus of a trial (they said that Abu-Jamal’s original trial “was irredeemably tainted by politics and race and failed to meet international fair trial standards.”) Failed to meet international fair trial standards… in the land of the free and the home of the brave? C’mon, that’s hard to believe. Just like these rabble-rousers who want us to believe that this country was built on genocide, nurtured through slavery, and then evolved through war, murder, and mayhem. Can’t they just be happy like the good folks of Copenhagen? Oh wait, when was the last time Copenhagen slaughtered 3 million Southeast Asians, or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? Or when did the leader of Copenhagen win a Nobel Peace Prize while bombing the shit out of brown people? Not recently at least. Well, screw all that reality. America is the greatest country on the face of the universe. Cue the F-18 flyover, strike up the Marine band…
Sorry, I digress.
As mentioned, Amnesty International hosted the screening and Trine Christensen was the moderator. Her thoughts about Mumia’s struggle before the film began were inspiring. She would have made a great interview for the film. (Oh well.)
The Empire Cinema in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen is sort of a revolution itself. Since opening earlier this year, neighboring theatres have experienced a serious attendance drop. It’s easy to see why. The four-screen venue offers a movie experience somewhere between an East Village art house and a post-modern Pathe Multiplex but with serious Danish design. It’s the first new cinema in the capital city in nearly twenty-five years. We were fortunate to screen here… and the audience clearly was intrigued by the film and, of course, by Mumia’s story. We had a lively, substantive, and very political discourse during the Q&A. The American presidential election was fresh on their minds and they were (happily) taken aback by my thoughts on the Empire’s ongoing ruler and CEO – not expecting to hear my critique of his violent actions coupled with his support of predatory capitalism and the corrupt Wall Street swine that enjoy the ongoing free ride.
And then some guy stands up, accuses me of being an intellectual who speaks down to people who don’t share my so-called radical views. He tells me I should reach out and compromise with “that simple guy in Kansas” who loves the ideas espoused by a moron and a tool like Romney. Now, by the way this guy in the crowd frames this fictional Kansas gentleman (let’s call him Toto), I get the sense that Toto’s not very enlightened when it comes to issues of race, war, gender, and sexual orientation. He suggests that it might make the message of my film more appealing – and Mumia more appealing – if I compromised the narrative’s assault on the actions of the American Empire. He suggests that I should meet Toto halfway, that I should understand his point of view, which ultimately may allow him to understand mine. Guy in the Crowd: “Did you ever think of that?” Me: “Uh, no… not for one nanosecond. You’re asking me to compromise with this fictional Joe Blow guy who you suggest is a racist, a warmonger, a misogynist, and probably someone who’s also homophobic. Frankly, we’re in this Neanderthal period of the American experiment because there has been too much compromise, there have been too many olive branches. How do I have a moral conversation with an immoral person? I see no common ground on racism. I see no common ground when trying to justify war. No common ground on economic terrorism. Not for a nanosecond did I consider compromising.”
The audience clapped and the defender of common ground gibberish and hate sat down.
Long Distance Revolutionary is about a man who has maintained the courage not to compromise, not to fall under the spell of concession and middle ground. Some things in life need to be fought for with uncompromising vigor and steadfast commitment. Sometimes you must say “NO.”
To hell with compromise.
Written by Stephen Vittoria
35th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival
When we started this journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal's tragic but courageous story, we envisioned a day when we could share this story of corrupt state repression with audiences that care and audiences that feel - because from the heart of darkness, which is the nightside of American history (read: tyranny), Mumia Abu-Jamal has transcended the prison walls that bind his flesh with the strength and power and beauty of his words. That's what this movie is about. Redemption. And where does his redemption come from? It comes from the same place that motivates all revolutionaries fighting and raging against the machine - it comes from love, love of the people. "Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal" is the definitive documentary on the life and revolutionary times of MUMIA.
Please join us at the world premiere:
Saturday, October 6 @ 12:00 noon
Rafael Film Center (California Film Institute)
1118 4th Street, San Rafael, CA 94901
And/or experience the film on Monday, October 8 @ 4:45pm
Cinemark At Sequoia
25 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941