*Filmmaker Shola Lynch’s documentary “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” which screened at the Toronto Film Festival in September, finally opened in theaters today with an assist from one of its producers Jada Pinkett Smith.
The actress has been passionately plugging the film in radio and web interviews all week, even willing to answer off-topic personal queries about her “open marriage” with Will Smith, who is also a producer on the film, along with Jay-Z. Jada likely knows the general rule when promoting a documentary only opening in limited release: any press is good press.
Unlike the recent Angela Davis film “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,” which put rugged beats and images to a recently discovered prison interview with the activist, “Free Angela” is a straightforward telling that sticks mostly to her role in one of the most publicized trials in American history.
Guns used in a botched kidnapping attempt at California’s Marin County courthouse were traced back to Davis in 1970. A shootout during the crime left four people dead and Davis on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. Under California law, “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether or not they directly commit the act constituting the offense, are principals in any crime so committed.” Because Davis was accused of purchasing the guns used in the fatal shootout, she was charged with kidnapping, murder and conspiracy.
The activist instantly became an international symbol for justice during her 1972 trial in San Jose. “Free Angela” movements sprang up all over the world, her image suddenly plastered on signs, stickers, buttons, posters and t-shirts.
More than four decades after Davis was acquitted of all charges and set free, her celebrity remains, as does that iconic image – even appearing on the movie poster in its equally ubiquitous silhouette form.
Asked how it feels to be a part of both American history and pop culture, Davis says her relationship to the image is “complicated.”
“It took me quite a long time to feel comfortable in my relationship with that image, because I always insisted, ‘Well, it’s really not me. It’s an image that’s been produced and that circulates in a certain way,’” she said. “But I’m not all that is ascribed to that image.”
Below, Davis talks about the time she ran into a high school girl sporting a t-shirt with her image on it.
Watch the trailer for “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners” below.