Do We Need Tigre Hill's Film?
Do We Need Tigre Hill’s New Film?
Director Tigre Hill’s new film “The Barrel of a Gun” is finally slated to be released the end of September. The eagerly awaited documentary purports to finally set the record straight about what happened the night of December 9, 1981 when Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was shot during a “routine” traffic stop in downtown Philadelphia. This murder and the conviction of Mumia that led to his being sentenced to death spawned a world wide movement to free him. Over the past several years this movement has seen a decline in interest and now exists only as a shadow of it’s former self.
There have been a number of films purporting to document the “truth” about the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal that have been released over the years. They were all decidedly pro-Mumia or at least sympathetic enough to his cause to overlook serious challenges to the theory that he is innocent or did not receive a fair trial. Because of this fact, all of these films have failed miserably insofar as coming anywhere near anything remotely related to anything like factual accuracy.
They have failed in this regard because they have relied not upon a passionate adherence to the quest for truth, but have instead been driven by ideological motivations that made it all too easy for them to ignore points of view and explanations that do not fall within the world view of those responsible for their production. While this has disallowed them to succeed in bringing truth to light, this ideological narrow mindedness made it all too easy for them to be embraced by their fellow travelers and have given them a semblance of credibility just because somebody somewhere agrees with their premise.
It has also set the stage for people who are not so skilled in understanding the sophisticated uses of propaganda to be seduced and fooled into believing that the two dimensional projections on their television or computer screens have anything at all to do with reality.
In conversations I have had with people familiar with the Mumia situation and the nearly thirty years of anger and hatred that it has spawned, there is a cause for concern with Tigre Hill’s film. People have wondered if Tigre’s film could cast the spotlight yet again on Mumia bringing a kind of resurgence of interest in the convicted cop-killer just as it seems like the dreadlocked MOVE supporter seems to be spiraling into obscurity. It is a question I have been wondering myself as I have watched with interest the steady decline of the Mumia machine. And it is a question worth answering.
After giving it some thought I came to the conclusion that even if Tigre’s film did bring attention to Mumia’s cause that this might not necessarily be a bad thing. Certainly, when the “Justice for Daniel Faulkner” website was started in the late 1990’s, that brought attention to Mumia and so too did the release of Maureen Faulkner’s book “Murdered by Mumia”. And while both of these events did again cast Mumia into the public sphere, the public, which at first was largely sympathetic to his plight, is now pretty hip to his game.
Now, when people see the actor Ed Asner talking about how innocent Mumia is or how the former Black Panther’s trial just “stunk”, they realize that Asner is completely fucking baffled. He just has no idea what he is talking about. Sure he might be a funny guy to have a few drinks with, but when it comes to Mumia he is clueless and more importantly he seems to have no shame about that fact. All of which is ok I think once people know that kind of thing about Asner and other Hollywood types who jump on various bandwagon causes and bumper sticker crusades without having clue one as to what is going on.
No longer is Mumia so much considered that “innocent” man on death row as he is known as a factually guilty killer who cynically sat back and watched as people from around the world worked tirelessly for his freedom. He did this all the while knowing that he stood over another human being and blew that person’s brains across a cold-sidewalk. Hell, he probably knew that people would eventually catch on to his charade and turn away, but figured he would get on the ride anyways just to see if by chance it might pay off and through some legal maneuvering he could get himself a ticket out of jail.
The very reason that people have turned against Jamal and his cause is because people have stood up and have spoken out and not because they sat back with the vague hope that the Mumia machine would just fade away into obscurity on its own. This is something that I think we can all agree on.
I think we all know that Tigre’s film will be aesthetically brilliant. We also know that he has spared no expense in tracking down relevant people to interview and that his research has been thoroughly meticulous. What remains to be seen is whether his film will be an intellectually driven vehicle for the sake of unraveling, with precision, what exactly happened on December 9th 1981 and in the days and years preceding it, or will it be just a mirror image of the pro-Mumia films that we have already seen. We don’t need an “anti-Mumia” film any more than we needed a “pro-Mumia” film, what we need is a documentary that is as honest as possible.
On Sept 21st we will know for sure what Tigre Hill has done with the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.