If you haven’t yet checked out “Free Angela!” in AMC theaters nationwide, you should run, not walk, to the box office and by a ticket. In the riveting almost two-hour documentary, Director Shola Lynch takes you on a journey through the life and chaotic pursuit of Angela Davis in the trial the captivated the world. Lynch’s careful narrative choices reveal Angela as a perfectly flawed and complex character–presenting a story that peels through the layers of drama: guns, murder, just and love, to reveal a soft and perhaps surprising portrait of Angela Davis–reserved, healed and persistent in her commitment to being and political advocate.
In our exclusive interview with Shola Lynch, she discussed the challenges, triumphs and rewards involved in her journey to bring “Free Angela!” to theaters nationwide.
HB: How did you begin working on this project?
Shola Lynch: So many people know her face, know her image and then when I investigated the story, I [learned] I didn’t really know the details of the story. I knew she was an important historical figure; I probably thought she was a black panther, though she’s not technically, although she was sympathetic to, and she is a powerful and strong and political woman–but, I couldn’t tell you why I knew that. When I dug some and realized it’s a political crime drama with a love story in the middle of it, I realized, I had to make this story, I had to make this movie.
HB: I really felt like you’ve made this in a moment when I think that we really need it–I think for all of the years that this story hasn’t been told in this way, it’s so important the way that you have and that you’ve told it right now.
SL: I appreciate you recognizing that and saying it, because it does feel sometime like thankless work. People will say, why do such a small story? Why make a story about a woman? Why only do a story about women of color? One hip-hop person who is not affiliated with the film at this time said, ‘I’d help you fund this documentary, really to make the movie–the narrative scripted movie, but you have to be clear on who the main male characters are because people won’t go see a movie about a woman.’ And I’m like, ‘oh my god!’ So there’s a lot of push back, and we don’t support our own storytelling.
HB: Everyone thinks they know about Angela Davis, but so few people really do know the story. Why is that?
SL: I think that’s always the case with historical characters–except woman and people of color–are particularly flattened in a way that I don’t really appreciate. So she’s remembered as dangerous and as angry, and she was neither of those really. But she was forceful and unapologetic for her politics. and she didn’t play a victim role at any part of the story or at party of her life.
I had never really heard much about the love story part–