"In Prison My Whole Life" At Sundance
("Actorvist Robert Redford at Sundance Film Festival)
At first glance it is hard to understand why such an esteemed and revered institution like the Sundance Film Festival would play host a "documentary" dedicated to Mumia Abu-Jamal and the cult of personality that surrounds him.
Mumia was convicted or murdering a white Philadelphia Police Officer in 1982 by a racially mixed who subsequently would also sentence him to death. His appeals have largely failed, however his death sentence was overturned in 2001, which led to both sides to appeal the verdict. As I write this, the appeals process creeks on ever so slowly.
However, after a mere five minutes of research, I have found that it would be somewhat of a surprise if a pro-Jamal film was not featured at the most well-known film festival in the world
For the far left, Jamal is a hero whose political essays are disseminated the world over, for the majority of the people of Philadelphia, he is a vicious murderer whose supporters have been duped by a sophisticated campaign of misinformation that exploits race and the naivete of young people who are suffering under the misapprehension that their hero is innocent.
In December, the widow of the Police Officer Mumia killed, Maureen Faulkner, released a book "Murdered By Mumia", which chronicled her twenty five year ordeal. Her book tells, in excruciating detail, of her treatment at the hands of leftist activists, who quite literally spat upon her and sought to defame and abuse her at every turn.
So why would a film festival of any type offer such a one-sided, propaganda film, for a man whose guilt has been affirmed by a jury of his peers, as well as numerous appellate courts?
Sundance is the kind of place and event where people like George Soros and Paris Hilton can rub shoulders as days and nights of film screenings are interspersed with booze drenched parties, filled with celebrities, all levels of the film-making industry, and various hangers on,
mixing together in an atavistic orgy of sheer egoism.
In such a world, Mumia fits in just fine.
Like Leni Riefenstahl, those responsible for "In Prison My Whole Life", are forced to rely on a good sense of aesthetics in order to make up for the fact that there hero hides a very ugly past and a present full of deceit and contempt for the truth, and a simmering hatred of the victims of his crime.
It is rather easy to explain how such a film about a murderer from Philadelphia, is featured in a film put together by Colin Firth, a British movie star, to be shown at the most prestigious of film festivals in the mountains of Utah. It’s the politics.
Tempting as it might be to just relegate Sundance to being the jumping off point for all sorts of agit-prop films, it is more than that. Many fine films that would have never really been seen by anyone got their chance at Sundance. The same with a number of now world-famous directors
However, there is a plain-as-day political bias to many films presented at Sundance, especially the documentaries. It is a political climate fostered and maintained by "actorvist" Robert Redford, who founded the Sundance Institute in 1981 in an effort to aid independent films and their makers get their work out into the public arena. From the Institute came the Festival and from there came the Sundance Channel on cable.
From it’s humble origins, Sundance has evolved into a media spectacle where the rich and famous attendees, party and get their picture taken, and often outshine the films themselves.
And while reporters who cover this event have taken notice of the fact this years event isn’t as rife with political films as much as in the past, and while festival director Geoffrey Gilmore acknowledges that the 121 upcoming films being showcased are "not as political or social-issue-oriented as last year". The fact remains that there are a dozen political docs and narrative entries which could win major festival prizes and show up in theaters next year.
Sundance’s dramatic competition sees such films offered as "American Son," about a Marine on leave who returns home before being deployed for active duty; "Frozen River," about a woman drawn into the world of smuggling illegal immigrants; "Sunshine Cleaning," about a family becoming involved with biohazard removal; and "Sleep Dealer," set in a futuristic world of closed borders and virtual labor. Features gunning for awards in the documentary competition include "An American Soldier," exploring Army recruitment; "Fields of Fuel," in which Big Oil, Big Government and Big Soy meet in the form of a "veggie van" running on natural fuel; "I.O.U.S.A.," focusing on America’s fiscal health; "Nerakhoon" ("The Betrayal), the story of Laotian refugees; "Secrecy," about government cover-ups; and "Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North," profiling America’s largest slave-trading family.
The clear left-leaning agendas of so many of the films featured at Sundance reflect an institutionalized agenda that represent the core values of it’s founder, Robert Redford. And as it is his right to hold whatever political opinion he chooses and show the films that he wants, others have that same freedom to criticize him and be aware of his agenda.
And while he is not officially in charge of the festival, it is clear that his political ideals are reflected in the choices of what films are to be shown. He wears his political convictions on his sleeves as he opened the film festival in 2007 by tearing into President Bush and the war. However, his politics are more pronounced than just than just an occasional jab at the President.
Robert Redford and another film-maker Michael Apted made a very political "documentary", "Incident at Oglala" back in 1991, . Redford produced and narrated the film. Apted has also directed a feature film, Thunderheart, inspired by the same "story". Both films center around Leonard Peltier, whom like Mumia is in prison for murder. In Peltier’s case, for the murder of two FBI Agents. Like Mumia, Peltier maintains his innocence with regards to the execution style murder of the two agents, but he did admit firing at the FBI agents who were found at the scene of the crime, having been ruthlessly executed at close range.
Peltier’s appeals have been rejected by courts on nearly every level and hope for a last minute appeal for clemency was turned down. This, after hundreds, if not thousands of citizens signed t petitions, marched, and waged a public relations campaign to demand that clemency be not granted for the man they believe participated in the brutal execution of two law enforcement officers.
Redford, who exerts a good deal of control over his cable channel has used it as a vehicle to further his agenda, for example by repeatedly airing a film very favorable to former attorney, and extreme left icon, Lynne Stewart. Stewart, as you may recall was convicted for her role in assisting the terrorists who led the first attack on the World Trade Center. Like Jamal and Peltier, both of whom she also supports, has become a near martyr for those who dislike the current president more than Osama Bin Laden.
Redford was also the producer of "The Motorcycle Diaries" a film about Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The National Review called the film "One of the most nauseating recent celebrations of Guevara and executive producer Robert Redford "one of the most dedicated Castro apologists in Hollywood, which is saying something. While the film showed a young Guevara toling around on a bike like a Central American Jack Kerouac, the fact that he would later turn into a savage executioner for the Cuban state would have been lost on viewers.
So in this context of the adoration and celebration of murderers, who commit their crimes in he name of politics it is no wonder why a pro-Jamal film has made it to the Sundance Film Festival. Especially considering that instead of legal experts or people who may know what they are talking about, the film features people like Snoop Dogg.
For a political ideologue like Robert Redford, "In Prison My Whole Life" has everything. Cool graphics, a story of a downtrodden minority who is being tormented hy the police, tales of the Black Panthers, a compelling story line, a hip-hop soundtrack, and than there is the man himself, Mumia, tall with long dread locks and a knack for writing. Powerfully articulate and exceptionally bright with his deep, but friendly sounding voice. The Mumia "brand" sells quite well.
It is unfortunate that people have been taken in by the Jamal, victimization racket and may come away from a deeply biased and therefore flawed film suffering from the delusion that the facts of the case point straight to Jamal as the shooter.
Hopefully, people can see past the hype and glow of the celebrities who make up the cast of this film and look beyond the propaganda of "In Prison My Whole Life". Hopefully they will realize that Mumia should be in prison for his whole life and that the profits are being derived from the death of a truly innocent man.
What is unfortunate for Robert Redford, Sundance, and those who made "In Prison My Whole Life", is the fact that Mumia may well be appealing to those taken in by the victimization racket of a cold-blooded killer. All of the clever lawyering and cinematic propaganda cannot alter the one overarching fact that Mumia shot a man to death, not while he was acting in the capacity as the "voice of the voiceless", but rather a taxi driver whose professional and personal life was in a tailspin as a result of his increasing devotion to the MOVE cult. He has never acknowledged his crime and has continued to help his revolving door of attorneys to spin conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory that are altered almost on a seasonal basis, or after the inevitable diminishing returns of a faux cause invariably set in.
It is also unfortunate that people continue to profit from the death of a Philadelphia Police Officer. What is also sad is that there are still those out there who are so cynical that they will ignore are all the facts, attempt to spin reality into something that fits their political agenda. That there are people, such as the ones are behind "In Prison My Whole Life" who can be so shamelessly oblivious to the pain they inflict on the Faulkner family and so many others who have come to identify with the Faulkners and what they have had to endure throughout the last quarter of a century.
Keep that in mind before you pay money to see "In Prison My Whole Life" or mistake an obvious homage to a murderer and his devotees for art.