Friday, June 05, 2020

Eldridge Cleaver: Black Panther (William Klein, 1970)


“Filmed and edited by William Klein … in collaboration with Eldridge Cleaver and Robert Scheer” read the red-lettered credits at the beginning of this portrait of Black Panther activist Eldridge Cleaver. In the late sixties, Cleaver left the United States for Cuba, then Algeria, in order to avoid prosecution. Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther tells the story of his political activism in exile and becomes itself more incendiary by the minute. But it also stops from time to time to take stock, such as in the conversations between Cleaver and Scheer or in Cleaver’s encounters with representatives of Pan-African peace movements or South Vietnam. How does the American struggle fit into the struggle against worldwide imperialism and how does the Panther’s revolutionary language fit into Klein’s images? A film that creates affirmative images, but still asks how images produce images nonetheless. --Berlinale

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