The Killing of Malcolm X
The Killing of Malcolm X
Filming for the production of The Killing of Malcolm X was originally begun in 1992 and was conceived as part of the multi-part documentary series Lifting the Fog; the first two films in the project Intrigue in the Middle East and The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were completed while The Killing of Malcolm X was halted because of a collapse in funding. Nevertheless, twenty-five hours of high quality video were recorded. The material included interviews with Malcolm X’s brother, James Farmer (former National Director of CORE and member of the Johnson Administration, Irv Kupcinet (a well known Chicago radio personality and syndicated columnist) and other close associates and confidantes of Malcolm X. Additionally, a substantial body of archival research consisting of film materials and documents had already been collected. The current proposed project utilises the existing materials, adds new materials and substantially updates the original project objectives.
The charismatic and eloquent African-American leader Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom in upper Manhattan on February 21 1965. In the United States, the event was framed by a decade of numerous, highly visible, political killings including the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King – to name the most prominent. The growing social unrest associated with the civil rights movement, the unsuccessful invasion of Cuba and the Vietnam War define the context for these traumatic events. This upsurge in political violence highlights the unmistakeably brutal and vicious nature of the American political landscape: a characteristic that Malcolm X commented on after the killing of John Kennedy when he spoke about the “chickens coming home to roost.”
The proposed feature length documentary, The Killing of Malcolm X, goes beyond the traditional formulas of the documentary biopic and seeks to unpack the continuing resonance of this incident from a mixture of perspectives. Consequently, as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the event, the magnitude of its ramifications can only be comprehended through by endeavouring to deconstruct this historical moment from the most relevant vantage points. Accordingly, in addition to accounts of the evolutionary journey that describes the last years of Malcolm X’s life, the film is built around the cultural and political markers that define the era as well as the personalities and policy makers that are able to describe and illuminate the dimensions of the man and his importance.
The film is neither a hagiographical portrait nor an indictment of particular institutions or individuals. Rather it views a period in the life of an outspoken and articulate seminal political figure in relation to the social and political forces that both propelled him and which ultimately claimed his life. In this sense the life of Malcolm X becomes indicative of not simply those African Americans who struggled for social justice and equality but a vast array of American citizens who were politically marginalised, incarcerated or murdered. In this context “The Killing of Malcolm X” views political violence, the shadowing of outspoken regime critics and assassinations not as anomalies in American society but as a final tragic consequence of those that challenge the perimeters of the political process.
The existing interviews will be supplemented by discussions with some of the leading political figures and commentators of the time, including Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte, Tariq Ali and Bill Moyers. The objective here is to define the social climate as well as to present from across a wide spectrum of personalities the political impact of Malcolm X. Additionally, where necessary, further interviews will be added with individuals who were close to Malcolm X in those final years. It should be emphasized that the thematic arc of The Killing of Malcolm X extends into new areas of investigation and places this turbulent moment in American history in a context that reaches into the present.
Budapest, August 2013
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