Al Sharpton bows, along with Spike, to shut down Tribeca

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NEW YORK (AP) — On the eve of June 19, the Tribeca Festival wrapped up with the Reverend Al Sharpton’s documentary “Loudmouth” in a premiere that brought Sharpton and Spike Lee together on stage — two towering New York figures who have each been reviled and celebrated for their careers advocating racial justice.

Saturday’s event at the Borough of Manhattan Community College celebrated Sharpton with the kind of big-screen portrayal that has been commonplace for an older generation of civil rights leaders, but had, until ” Loudmouth”, escaped the 67-year-old activist. . “Loudmouth” contextualizes Sharpton’s legacy as an extension of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Rep. John Lewis and others, while chronicling his unique longevity despite many naysayers along the way .

“Shoot your best shot,” Sharpton said in a Q&A after the film. “I’m still there.”


Lee, a longtime friend who cast Sharpton in a small role in 1992’s “Malcolm X,” applauded Sharpton for being there “from the start, fighting the good fight.”

“Everybody takes a beating but you get up and keep going,” said Lee, who joined Sharpton and John Legend, the film’s executive producer, on stage. “And you still do it today.”

“Loudmouth,” which is seeking distribution at Tribeca, was pitched by Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro. He drew a firm distinction between Sharpton and other “loudmouths” on the airwaves today and in the Jan. 6 hearings in Washington.

“How interesting that the committee and the Reverend are on the same page exposing the lies and liars that threaten our democracy,” De Niro said. “They want to take away our right to vote and deprive us of social justice. While Washington deals with lies and the big lie, tonight you are in the company of a patriot who challenges us to get to the truth .

“Loudmouth,” directed by Josh Alexander, revolves around an interview with Sharpton, who tells his story as a constant fight to keep social justice in the headlines. “Nobody calls me to keep a secret,” Sharpton said at the George Floyd memorial service.

For Sharpton, it was his goal – “the exploding man”, he once called himself – to tirelessly agitate and stoke media attention and shine a light on injustice. Of course, this approach earned Sharpton many detractors — almost all of whom are white — who chastised him as a racial opportunist. This was especially after his involvement in the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, whose allegation that she had been raped and kidnapped by a group of men from Dutchess County, New York, later found to have been fabricated by a special state grand jury.

Sharpton in the film argues that his mission in this and other cases was always to give someone their day in court. Prior to the film, Alexander said Sharpton’s only request was to “get the context right.” And in a litany of other instances, Sharpton has been there to advocate, consult and support black people. Floyd’s family members, Eric Garner and others were in the audience Saturday.

“It just makes you realize that anyone who makes a noise for justice, especially for an oppressed minority, will always be treated as persona non grata in society,” Legend said. “They will always be unpopular to some degree because they are fighting to disrupt a status quo that protects a lot of people.”

When Legend approached Sharpton to direct the documentary, he and the producers surprised Sharpton with the idea that it would be directed by Alexander, a white Jewish filmmaker from California. They argued the film would be more objective from a white filmmaker’s perspective, Sharpton said.

“I said, ‘I’ll tell you what. If it works, I’ll be there to say hello. If you don’t, I’m going to sting you on the outside, Sharpton said.

The legend – who Sharpton praised as a pop star and ‘crossover artist’ who was bold in affiliating himself with a figure seen by some as ‘risky’ – said he was put off by what he saw as a backlash from the judgment that followed Floyd’s death and recent battles over textbooks. But Legend said he found inspiration watching Sharpton in “Loudmouth.”

“Every time we move forward, there’s a backlash, and the backlash is, ‘Oh, we have to control this narrative,'” Legend said. “Everyone knows how important narrative is and how important who tells the story and what perspectives are represented.”

Lee, who twice mentioned being traumatized by an early school trip to see “Gone with the Wind,” said “Loudmouth” should be shown in schools. As a chronicle of the front lines of racial tensions in New York, Lee said it was a valuable reminder.

“You have to show that racism doesn’t really have a particular zip code,” said Lee, who wore a “1619” hat. “It’s not Shangri-La. There’s a lot of disorder here that continues today.

Sharpton often returns to the question of how much has changed in the past half-century. Sharpton recently paid tribute to several Buffalo victims of last month’s racist mass shooting that killed 10 people at a supermarket. Yet he said he also saw great progress and more black people in power than ever before.

“We’re not off the hook yet,” Sharpton said. “But we’ve made enough paths in the woods to believe we can get out.”

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