Best known for his avant-garde meta-documentary “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm,” pioneering award-winning documentarian of Black history, culture, and politics, the late William Greaves directed over 100 films. However, his library of work still remains largely undiscovered in the mainstream, partly due to availability and access.
One such film is “Nationtime,” a documentary on the 1972 National Black Political Convention. The film was considered too radical for television broadcast at the time and has since only existed in an edited 60-minute version. But thanks to a new 4K restoration from IndieCollect, the film has been returned to its original 80-minute length, which Kino Lorber will release later this month. The film’s resurgence couldn’t be more timely, as the U.S. heads into a rather significant election against the backdrop of racial justice protests.
Unearthed in a Pittsburgh warehouse in 2018, and narrated by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, “Nationtime” presents a dynamic and powerful look at the three-day Gary, Indiana Convention which gathered over 10,000 Black politicians, activists, and artists from across the political spectrum. Among them were Jesse Jackson, Bobby Seale, Dick Gregory, Coretta Scott King, Amiri Baraka, Dr. Betty Shabazz, Fannie Lou Hamer, Isaac Hayes, Richard Roundtree, and countless others.
Amiri Baraka, along with Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr. and Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary, set the convention in motion and served as co-chair. It was Baraka who suggested Greaves record the convention, and he did so with his son David and a tiny crew with zero financing. The resulting images are very raw, with an urgency to them that needs to be experienced.
The past certainly informs the present. Bobby’s Seale’s statement at the ’72 Convention that “revolution is about the right for the humanity of Black people in this country here and across the world to survive” was essentially a Black Lives Matter statement, four decades before the actual M4BL movement came to be.
Forty-eight years later, it inspired a coalition of Black organizations that convened for a Black National Convention in August 2020. The livestreamed event, hosted and organized by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), featured a series of conversations and performances aimed at shaping a “Black agenda” ahead of the 2020 elections.
Richard Lorber, President and CEO of Kino Lorber, feels the same way. “With the Black Lives Matter movement at the forefront and our country heading into the 2020 political conventions, we are proud to release the complete cut of ‘Nationtime,'” he told IndieWire. “We hope that the spirit and energy of the National Black Political Convention of 1972 will be a reminder of how much work still needs to be done to push for racial equality for all Black people in our country.”
The new restoration, funded by actor and activist Jane Fonda and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Trust, was done under the supervision of Louise Greaves, the director’s widow and filmmaking partner.
“A turning point in the struggle for self-determination and equal rights, the National Black Political Convention of 1972 adjourned without reaching consensus and some deemed it a failure,” she said. “But the cry of ‘Nationtime’ reverberates as America continues to wrestle with its legacy of slavery. I know Bill would be absolutely thrilled that Nationtime is being released nationwide at this critical moment in our history.”
Negotiated by Wendy Lidell, SVP of Kino Lorber and IndieCollect President Sandra Schulberg, the newly restored “Nationtime” will be rolled out in virtual cinemas starting on October 23, and will later be available on KinoNow.com and home video. Check out the exclusive trailer and poster for “Nationtime,” available only on IndieWire, below.