A pious portrait of the famed death-row activist stuffed with eye-bulging emphasis, Stephen Vittoria’s ranting new documentary limns decades of racial history—in Abu-Jamal’s native Philadelphia and nationally—and hits up everyone from Angela Davis to Cornel West for testimonial bona fides. It certainly puts a human face on its subject, for so long now just an anti-capital-punishment icon and a sonorous voice on Pacifica Radio. The film also makes the case, COINTELPRO and beyond, that power is hardly to be trusted in America. But the overall fist-pumping rhetoric (lots of earnest reciting of Abu-Jamal’s prose) and a failure to address the possibility that he might have, in fact, shot that cop in 1981 make this profile more hagiography than history.
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