Slave Routes: Resistance, Abolition, and Creative Progress 2009
Distributed by Third World Newsreel, 545 Eighth Avenue, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10018; 212-947-9277
Produced by Jayne Cortez
Directed by Jayne Cortez
DVD, color, 88 min.
Sr. High - Adult
African American Studies, History
Date Entered: 09/20/2010Reviewed by Timothy W. Kneeland, History and Political Science Department, Nazareth College of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Slaves Routes consists of excerpts of presentations, lectures, panels, and performances from the symposium of the same name, held at New York University just weeks prior the historic 2008 presidential election. The UNESCO sponsored conference was held to commemorate the bicentennial of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade but the focus is only nominally historical or about the transatlantic slave trade, the ultimate goal of the conference is to use the past to inspire changes in the future.
The film contains highlights of papers, presentations and artistic performances at the conference. Watching the film, the viewer catches glimpses of both academic and activists as they review recent work uncovering the economics of racism and the current state of post Diaspora Africans. However, to gain insight into this the viewer it taken from one topic to another in all too brief segments that have no introduction and no clear margins. The strongest aspect of the film consists of those sections which are the longest, and especially well done is a discussion of SNCC and the politics of the 1960s conducted by Lawrence Guyot and Ekwueme Michael Thelwell. The exchange with the audience and the meditation on the current state of African Americans is very effective. Alas, this section comes in the midst of shorter sections and even here the discussion does not have a clear introduction, middle and ending. The film fails to find a focus, either on an individual, or a specific theme and is often frustrating in its endeavor that fails to sustain critical insight. Furthermore, the film segments the material along the lines of the actual conference which only increases the lack of centeredness in this film.
Overall, the greatest success of the film is to act as a primary source document that reveals key ideas expressed at the conference but which utterly fails at being a documentary. Further editing of the material is necessary to provide a thematic focus to further the utility of the material.