Movie Reviews: Freedom Song




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     TNT (2hr. 30 min.)
     The story of the grassroots Civil Rights movement taking hold in the small fictional town of Quinlan, Miss.
     Danny Glover, Vondie Curtis Hall, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Loretta Devine
Bottom Line:


     Danny Glover stars as Will Walker, a small business owner and World War II veteran who finds himself at odds with his son in the midst of the 1961 Civil Rights Movement in Freedom Song, a powerful drama about black youths demanding racial equality.
     After returning home from the war, Walker (Glover) tries to organize Quinlan's black residences to register, so they can vote the town's racist sheriff out of office. But Walker's plans far short when the Klan riddle his home with bullets one night nearly missing 5-year-old Owen. Quinlan's white residence boycott Walker's gas station and dare its black residents to purchase Walker's gas -- eventually driving Walker out of business. Walker's spirit is finally crushed when Owen accidentally walks into a bus station's lunch room labled for "Whites Only," and several white men force Walker to spank Owen in front of the lunchroom crowd creating a riff between father and son for years.
     Years later, the Civil Rights Movement is gaining momentum throughout the South. Against his father's wishes, Owen (Vicellous Reon Shannon) now a teenager, is inspired by the Freedom Riders who are protesting segregation by sitting down at "white only" establishments demanding to be served.
     Owen joins SNCC -- the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee -- to fight to end segregation in Quinlan. SNCC trains Owen and a group of his school friends to lead several peaceful protest against the town's segregated facilities. Walker reminds Owen how the white power structure drove him out of business years earlier. And that he's fighting a cause he cannot win. But Owen feels his father is a broken man. So he ignores his father's advice and continues to protest against the city.
     Finally Owen is arrested with his friends Charlie and Isaac for disturbing the peace after orchestrating a school walk out with Mr. Wall, a SNCC organizer from Chicago. The youths and Wall are sentence to four months in the county jail. While sitting in a holding cell waiting to be transported, frustrated Owen tells his friends that his father was right -- all their efforts were for nothing. Isaac tries to convince Owen that they did make a difference. But Owen doesn't believe him:

Owen: You got arrested for sitting down in at the Woolworths. The Woolworth is still segregated. Dora and the others got arrested for sitting in at the damn bus station. The damn bus station is still segregated.

Charlie: (Jumping down from the bunk bed, Charlie hands Owen a newspaper page he's been reading.) Look at this. The Federal government ordered the city to integrate the bus station.

Owen: But read the whole article, Charlie. The city said, "No." So face it, we're on our own.

Mr. Wall: (Sitting on the floor) Read tomorrow's paper.

Owen: What?

Mr. Wall: A trustee told me that some folks from New Orleans heard what you all did here. And they are coming to it carry on.

Isaac: What folks in New Orleans?

Mr. Wall: A group called the Congress Of Racial Equality.

Charlie: CORE?

Owen: Freedom Riders?

Charlie: They're coming to Quinlan?

Mr. Wall: (Takes a deep breath) They saw your light. You see, I came South, because I was inspired by those first sit-ins too. It's like they lit a flame, and I saw the light from that flame a thousand miles away. (The youths slowly gather around Mr. Wall, listening.)

     That light also inspired the first Freedom Riders. And they carried that flame all though the South until they were stopped. But not before you saw it. (Mr. Wall points to Owen.) And then it inspired you.
     So when you walked out of that school, you just didn't make a march. You picked up a torch. Now other folks have seen your light And they're coming here to carrying it because you can't right now.
     And if they go to jail too, other folks will pick up their torch someplace else. So you're not on your own, Owen. You're part of something bigger than you. (Wall slowly raises his hand in a clutched fist.) You're part of the movement.



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