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Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther

William Klein
Algeria, France 1970

26.02.2020 11:00 OV Akademie der Künste
29.02.2020 19:30 OV Kino Arsenal 1

35 mm, 75 min. English.

“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. (ab)

William Klein was born in New York, USA in 1928. He first studied sociology and completed his military service. In 1948, Klein went to Paris and worked as a painter, photographer and filmmaker. His photography mainly focused on metropolises. Until 1965, Klein also worked as a fashion photographer, including for Vogue. Klein participated in film projects by Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Louis Malle, and directed more than 20 of his own documentaries and feature films. His career as a filmmaker was marked early on by his political commitment to the African American population. Klein lives and works in Paris.

Eldridge Cleaver in Algiers

(…)  Insofar as Cleaver is the subject, the film is thoughtful, ironic, valuable. Insofar as Johnson, Reagan, Nixon, Agnew and the "crimes of American imperialism" are the subjects, the film is very tired and very ordinary propaganda. (…)
However, ELDRIDGE CLEAVER is sufficiently unassertive in its approach to the man to allow his mind and what he has to say essential control – to a degree, even undercutting the more strident rhetoric of some of its images. As he discusses the revolutionary aims and methods of the Panthers, contemplates exile (with rather too desultory a subjective camera exploring the alleys of Algiers), meets African nationalists, laments the captivity in Babylon (the United States) – he emerges as a man of considerable wit, grace, personal sadness and hard-headed realism. Although he advocates an orthodox revolutionary toughness ("So far as I'm concerned, the neutrals are part of the problem."), he rejects black racism in favour of an internationalism of the oppressed that, if short on analysis, is also short on the appeals to anti-American paranoia that seem so often to motivate "third-world" indignation.  (…)

(Roger Greenspun, The New York Times, 25 August 1970)

Production William Klein. Production company ONCIC (Office National pour le Commerce et l'Industrie Cinématographique) (Algier, Algeria). Director William Klein. Cinematography William Klein. Editing William Klein. In cooperation with Eldridge Cleaver, Robert Scheer. Music Elaine Brown. Sound Antoine Bonfanti.

Films

1958: Broadway by Light (12 min.). 1962: Les troubles de la circulation (16 min.), Le business et la mode (15 min.). 1963: Gare de Lyon (12 min.). 1964: Aux grands magasins (45 min.). 1966: Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? / Who Are You, Polly Magoo? / Wer sind Sie, Polly Magoo? (102 min.). 1967: Loin du Viêtnam / Far from Vietnam / Fern von Vietnam (115 min., co-directed by Chris Marker, Joris Ivens, Claude Lelouch, Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard). 1969: Muhammad Ali, the Greatest / Muhammad Ali, der Größte (120 min.), Festival panafricain d'Alger / The Pan-African Festival of Algiers (120 min.), Mr. Freedom / Mister Freedom (100 min., Retrospective 2002). 1977: Hollywood, California: A Loser's Opera (60 min.), Le Couple témoin / The Model Couple (97 min.). 1978: Grands soirs et petits matins / May Days / Mai '68 im Quartier Latin (97 min.). 1980: The Little Richard Story (90 min.). 1982: The French (129 min.). 1983: Contacts (14 min.). 1984: Ralentis (30 min.), Mode en France (84 min.). 1992: Babilée '91 (60 min.). 1994: In and Out of Fashion (82 min.). 1999: Le Messie / Der Messias (112 min.).

Photo: © Still from Ruben/Benston Film Collection Walker Art Center