Starting today, Tuesday, August 13 through Wednesday, August 28, BAMcinématek presents A Time for Burning: Cinema of the Civil Rights Movement, a 40-film series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, culled from 28 private film and television archives, collectors, studios, and the New York Public Library.
The series covers the civil rights movement from the end of World War II to the historic 1963 march and the waves of legislation that passed in the years after.
Opening the series tonight is the New York premiere of a new 35mm restoration of King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis (1970).
Mastered in HD from the 35mm preservation negative, the 3-hour, landmark, Academy Award nominated film for Best Documentary (1970), King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis, was constructed from a wealth of archival footage, and follows Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1955 to 1968, in his rise from regional activist to world-renowned leader of the Civil Rights movement.
Produced for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation by Ely Landau, King is an epic document of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott to his assassination in 1968. Rare footage of King’s speeches, protests, and arrests are interspersed with scenes of other high-profile supporters and opponents of the cause, punctuated by heartfelt testimonials by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
There is no voice-over narration; instead, the film uses contemporary film/newsreel and video/television footage to brilliantly convey the boiling indignation of an oppressed people and their revolutionary organizing. Juxtaposed over this footage are dramatic readings by actors Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Ben Gazzara, Charlton Heston, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, Anthony Quinn, Clarence Williams III and Joanne Woodward. These sections were co-directed by Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
The film premiered as a special “one-time-only event” on March 24, 1970 in over 600 theaters throughout the USA, and its release raised over three million dollars for the benefit of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Special Fund.
A shorter version of the film was subsequently made available to TV stations across the world, but the original, unedited, three-hour version of the film, has rarely been shown in recent years.
It was admitted to the National Film Registry in 1999.
Other films of note in the BAMcinématek series include To Kill a Mockingbird, Odds Against Tomorrow (Harry Belafonte stars), A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Roger Corman’s The Intruder and many more we’ve covered on this blog in recent months.
The series closes on August 28 with a March on Washington shorts program, featuring four candid portraits of the civil rights movement:
– Santiago Álvarez’s (1965), Haskell Wexler’s The Bus (1965), James Blue’s The March (1964), and Ed Emshwiller’s Freedom March (1963).
See the series’ full lineup of screenings along with ticket information HERE.