Director: Spike Lee
Writer: Spike Lee and Arnold Perl
Cinematographer: Ernest Dickerson
Producer: Spike Lee and Marvin Worth
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
While history is to starting to look more favorably on the man, for a long while he was observed as an exceptionally violent individual, espousing borderline terroristic rhetoric. And while his more aggressive philosophy eventually gave way to more communal ideals, I think we’re starting to recognize that this is a man who went through a tremendous rate of growth, attempting to reconcile where the African American community fit within such a racist and innately bigoted system. Malcolm X explored whether they should leave and return to where they came from and demand reparations, or attempt equal rights and integration within the overall community. Part of Washington’s great command and ability to capture Malcolm X’s oratorical prowess was in convincing of us of both avenues. His speeches were so full of logic, anger, and power that you couldn’t help getting swept away by the charisma, wanting to see how this man would evolve. In one of the films great moments, Malcolm is approached by a white girl who wants to help him with the cause, begging to get involved. Malcolm brushes her aside, uninterested in accepting the assistance of someone who’s at least superficially a part of the group he’s rebelling against.
It’s when he finally takes his Hajj - a mandatory religious pilgrimage to Mecca, to be completed once in a Muslim’s lifetime - that he sees the ethnic diversity which has brought Muslims together throughout the entire world (albeit, all of the individuals he hangs out with are men). Lee was able to somehow actually film in Mecca, following Washington around as he explored the area. Upon returning, his vehement black nationalistic identity gave way to a more inclusive philosophy. However, witnessing the hypocrisies Elijah Muhammad, who had sex with numerous women from his congregation, many accused Malcolm of attempting to oust Elijah in order to take the supreme position for himself. Adding to a double front was the FBI’s harassment and wiretapping as they increasingly suspected Malcolm of being involved in the subversive Black Panther activities.
I was surprised to see that the film took a far less conspiratorial approach to Malcolm’s death. As many know, they never discovered who exactly assassinated Malcolm X, with theories ranging from the FBI to dissidents of Elijah Muhammad’s. To think these questions remain unanswered to this day, especially given that the horrendous act occurred in front of so many makes the situation all the more unnerving. In fact, Thomas Hagan, who was recently released from prison on parole, was the only man who actually admitted to killing Malcolm X, with the other two suspects released in the 80s, only about twenty years after the fact, having denied any involvement whatsoever.
BELOW: One of American History's all time great debates
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