DVD REVIEW: Black August

Black August (Warner Home Video), a film based on the story of George Jackson (Gary Dourdan), a San Quentin inmate serving a one year to life sentence for a $71 gas station robbery, captures the incendiary climate of the Black Panther movement in the 1960’s. Darren Bridgett plays David Dryer, a fidgety well-intentioned editor who embarks on the exacting task of publishing Soledad Brother, a collection of Jackson’s prison letters. Through a series of visiting room interviews, Dryer documents Jackson’s history of political activity and forms an appreciation for his controversial life work.Dryer first meets Jackson after he is about to face trial for murdering a prison guard. Though Darren Bridgett exaggerates his uneasiness at times, he still conveys the challenge as a white professional trying to gain the revolutionary’s trust. The challenge becomes even more difficult when Jackson accuses Dryer of tampering with Soledad Brother’s manuscript. As an integral member of the Black Guerrilla Family, an African-American Marxist organization, Jackson uses his writings to organize resistance to the justice system. The film recounts the bubbling racial climate of the day as political protests, police brutality, and civil upsurges are regular occurrences in Jackson’s world. Co-Directors Cinque J. Sampson and Samm Styles blend in original photos and footage from Jackson’s case, which lend the film authenticity. The material is especially compelling when George’s brother Jonathan holds the judge and several participants in George’s trial hostage, only to be gunned down during his escape. Sampson and Styles splice real photos with the reenactment to show that the movie stayed true to the historical details. Black August also touches on Jackson’s romance with Angela Davis and FBI infiltration of the Black Panther Party. The film is a fine document of radical revolutionary activities during the Civil Rights era.The American Black Film Festival DVD Series strengthens its reputation with another socially responsible release. Gary Dourdan’s uncanny resemblance to George Jackson also enhances the film’s effect as Black August takes an otherwise muted moment in Black History and gives it the attention it deserves.

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