[Ppnews] Update - New Mumia Film!

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 4 10:48:04 EST 2008

In Prison My Whole Life is a look at the life of imprisoned political 
journalist and former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Click on the link below to view the one minute or two minute 
trailer.  Please add your supportive comments to the blog.  And 
circulate this email as widely as possible.

About the film: Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested the day William Francome 
was born.  William is now 25 years old.  Mumia is still on death 
row.  William Francome goes on a journey to find out about the man 
who has been in prison William's whole life.   The film is showing at 
the Sundance Film Festival.

Mumia's case is currently before the US Court of Appeals and a 
decision on whether or not he will receive a new and fair trial is 
due any day.


For info about journalists in support of Mumia and an excellent 
article that was featured in the British Guardian, please go to 
<http://www.globalwomenstrike.net/>www.globalwomenstrike.net   Global 
Women's Strike 
<mailto:philly at crossroadswomen.net>philly at crossroadswomen.net  215-848-1120

These are two new articles about IN PRISON MY WHOLE LIFE, which is 
featured at this week's Sundance Film Festival

Another take on Mumia

Sundance screens a film by one obsessed with Abu-Jamal.

By Sam Adams

For The Inquirer
PARK CITY, Utah - When the lights come up after a film's premiere at 
the Sundance Film Festival, the stage usually fills with directors 
and producers, actors and crew, all basking in the audience's 
applause. But after Sunday's screening of In Prison My Whole Life, 
director Marc Evans apologized for the absence of the movie's "star": 
Mumia Abu-Jamal, on Pennsylvania's death row for the 1981 killing of 
Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Abu-Jamal is unquestionably the subject of the documentary, but as 
far as on-screen time goes, he plays a supporting role to 26-year-old 
William Francome, the "my" of the movie's title.

Francome said he was born on Dec. 9, 1981, the day that Abu-Jamal was 
arrested for Faulkner's murder. In Prison uses that coincidence to 
underscore the length of time Abu-Jamal has spent behind bars, most 
of it on death row - a circumstance the movie condemns as inhumane and unjust.

Francome appears as a cross between a crusading journalist, tracking 
down evidence to contradict the prosecution's case, and a wide-eyed 
student avidly pursuing the history of American racism.

The result is largely a recap of arguments for Abu-Jamal's retrial or 
exoneration and a broad overview of the history of American dissent.

Held together by Francome's narration, the movie oscillates between 
arguing the injustice of Jamal's case and charting Francome's 
education in the ugly side of American history.

Through interviews with the likes of Angela Davis and Noam Chomsky, 
In Prison attempts to place Abu-Jamal's case within a larger social 
context. The 1985 MOVE bombing and the 1987 videotape in which a 
Philadelphia prosecutor instructs young colleagues on how to keep 
African Americans off juries are part of the film's background. So 
are the FBI's Cointelpro program and Hurricane Katrina.

"I think it's part of a narrative," Francome says. "We could have 
made a film that was just purely about the case and looked into every 
single detail, but we've got 90 minutes to tell a story, and at the 
same time we're trying to make an entertaining film. I think we're 
making valid connections between certain issues."

Although the Sundance screening was not met with the rapturous whoops 
and standing ovations that greet the festival's instant hits, it was 
clear that at least some in the audience had no difficulty connecting 
Jamal's case and larger issues of racism, the death penalty and 
government corruption.

Sundance's audiences are well-known for their liberal bent, and its 
documentary programming tends to favor issue-oriented films. During 
the post-screening Q and A, one questioner asked if Abu-Jamal's bid 
for a new trial, currently awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Third 
Circuit Court of Appeals, would be rejected because "the consequences 
might be too huge to allow that to happen."

The British-born Francome, son of a British father and an American 
mother, describes his mother as a product of the '60s counterculture, 
and says she reminded him that each birthday he celebrated meant 
Abu-Jamal had spent another year in jail. But it wasn't until he was 
a teenager and heard Rage Against the Machine take up Abu-Jamal's 
cause that Francome connected the dots. "It was like, 'Hey, that's 
that Mumia guy mum's always talking about,' " he recalls in the film.

In his 20s, Francome began writing treatments for a film about the 
case. Through his girlfriend's godmother, he met Livia Firth, wife of 
actor Colin Firth, and Colin offered to produce the film and 
introduced him to Evans, an established feature and documentary director.

Firth also got in touch with Amnesty International's Piers Bannister, 
who had written a 35-page report condemning Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial as 
failing to meet "minimum international standards." Bannister, who 
appeared at the Sundance screening, shared his research with the 
filmmakers, and Amnesty vetted the film after it was completed.

"When we finished, we came back and said, 'This is the film. Tell us 
if we did a good job,' " Firth says. "They tore the film to pieces. 
They analyzed every single word." In addition to fact-checking the 
film, Amnesty suggested changes in the wording of Francome's 
narration to better represent its stance on the case and related 
issues such as the death penalty. The result, Firth proudly says, is 
the first film endorsed by Amnesty's secretariat.

In Prison opens with Amnesty's logo, which is followed immediately by 
the logo for Myspace, which helped finance the film. "Those two 
badges kind of reflect who the film is for," Evans says.

The question of the film's potential audience, Evans says, greatly 
influenced its form. Rather than evaluate every claim pro and con, In 
Prison is pitched at an introductory level.

"The bit of filmmaking I dislike the most is you have to say, 'Here's 
the film, now who's the audience?' " Evans says. "Is it for a very 
well-versed insider? Perhaps this isn't the film for them at the end 
of the day. I don't think the audience the film really appeals to are 
people who are necessarily politically clued in and have read a lot 
about their civil rights history. It's a series of inquiries and 
conversations by a 25-year-old, starting with a teenage obsession."

Crisscrossing the country, Francome pounds the streets looking for 
the truth of what happened on the night he was born. He talks to the 
authors of several books critical of Abu-Jamal's trial. He meets with 
photographer Pedro Polakoff, whose photos of the crime scene seem to 
show a police officer handling Faulkner's and Abu-Jamal's guns with 
his bare hands. And he interviews William Cook, Abu-Jamal's brother, 
who says that Faulkner addressed him with a racial slur and began 
beating him, unprovoked, in the moments before the shooting. Cook 
does not, however, discuss what happened next, and says he will do so 
only in a court of law.

Conspicuous by their absence are Faulkner's supporters, or any 
evidence that might weaken the movie's claims, like the fact that 
Cook was convicted of assaulting Faulkner. The sole argument in favor 
of Abu-Jamal's conviction is made by prosecutor Joseph McGill, who 
appears in excerpts from the 1996 documentary Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case 
for Reasonable Doubt? (When citing the film, In Prison omits the 
question mark.) Francome says attempts were made to contact McGill, 
representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police, and, through the 
FOP, Faulkner's widow, Maureen, and no responses were received. But 
Evans also says that they pursued advocates for Abu-Jamal's 
incarceration and execution only "up to a point."

"We're making a film that starts from a particular point of view, 
with a particular interest," Evans says. "To me, the proper way to 
proceed is to invite people to the table, and respond when people 
come to the table. Not to go, 'The film I'm making is so responsible 
for the truth.' It's not a journalistic film in that sense."

The film contains a handful of factual errors which, while evidently 
below the radar of Amnesty's fact-checkers, could damage its 
credibility with Philadelphia audiences. City Council president Anna 
Verna is referred to as "Ann," and the neighborhood of Powelton 
Village is referred to as "a suburb of Philadelphia."

Evans knows that Abu-Jamal's case raises heated emotions in the city, 
and that the battle between "Free Mumia" and "Fry Mumia" factions 
leads many to tune out the case altogether. That, he says, only 
heightened his curiosity.

"For us, coming in from the outside, the fact that people are so fed 
up with hearing about it, the fact that it gets people so riled up, 
that in itself is interesting. The fact that this guy can raise so 
much hatred or so much empathy . . . I find that absolutely fascinating."


in Context, Huffington Post

by Livia Giuggioli

My husband Colin and I have ongoing discussions on who we would 
support for this presidential campaign. Obama, Clinton, Edwards -- I 
tend to go for Obama but yesterday, while having lunch with friends 
here in Sundance, an African American studio executive said that 
should Obama be elected, he fears there would be several attempts to 
assassinate him simply because he is black. This sent an icy shock through me.

Walking through the crisp white snow at the Sundance Film Festival to 
a screening of our documentary In Prison My Whole Life, I started to 
wonder whether the optimism that we had felt in making the film had 
been misplaced. The movie centers around the case of Mumia Abu Jamal, 
a vociferous and radical black journalist who, after 25 years in 
prison, has become America's most famous Death Row inmate. Despite 
the injustices surrounding Mumia's case and some of the dark 
historical events that the film portrays, it is doggedly optimistic 
in approach. Mumia's continued articulate commentary as a radio 
journalist, broadcasting from his cell by means of typewriter and 
telephone, had inspired us. His voice is heroic and connects to a 
tradition of dissenting black voices which have always found a place 
in America. With our films' Sundance screening coinciding with Martin 
Luther King Jr. Day, this surviving continuity seemed even more 
poignantly alive.

Producing In Prison my Whole life is one of the best things that has 
ever happened to me. People have asked me many times what shocked me 
most while making the film and my answer is always the same: how much 
I fell in love with America all over again. There is a general 
perception in Europe that "America" is "Bush". So when we left for 
the States to film and found ourselves listening to people like Noam 
Chomsky, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Russell Simmons, Howard Zinn, 
Snoop Dogg, Mos Def (I could go on for hours, we met the most amazing 
people!) it reminded me what a wonderful country America is and what 
a powerful counter culture still exists.

This is the country which fought many of the biggest civil rights 
battles, and our film endeavors to ask what is the nature of dissent 
in America today.

I recently read an interview with the fantastic writer David Grossman 
who said, "One of the great questions that people living in this age 
must relentlessly ask themselves is: in what state, at which moment, 
do I become part of the faceless crowd, "the masses"?"

If you think about it -- this question IS the most fundamental one 
and I guess this is why I/we found ourselves doing this movie. Among 
the questions "In Prison My Whole Life" raises are: Is racism in 
America still endemic? What did we learn from Katrina? What is the 
state of the American judicial system? Was it unbiased in 
Philadelphia in 1982 when Mumia was on trial? Was it unbiased in the 
election of 2000? We must never stop asking questions. Documentary 
filmmakers have the opportunity to engage in the great debate, to 
resurrect -- if one can use that word - the urge to dissent, to ask 
questions again, to fight for change and to fight the blindness and 
ignorance of racism and injustice that still exists not only in this 
country but all over the world.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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