Remember the famed oration of Martin Luther King Jr, “I have a Dream”, which conjures up a grandiose vision of equality and fraternity. If Barack Obama, an Arfo-American, is president of the United States, the seed for this was sown way back in the sixties by the Civil Rights Movement. Hence, it becomes necessary for posterity to be aware of this history and, interestingly, an Indian is engaged in documenting the ‘Black movement’, which drew its inspiration from non-violence movement of Gandhi.
A noted documentary filmmaker with 10 titles to his credit, Swarnavel, hailing from Valuthoor village near Ambasamudram in Tirunelveli district and settled in the US, is working on the short film project. It is an attempt to capture the three significant events in the course of the Civil Rights Movement.
Speaking to CE, Swarnavel, who was in the city recently, says ‘Unfinished Journey: A City in Transition’ documents three events of the summer in 2011 at St Augustine, Florida, which turned out to be a watershed in the history of the Black movement. St Augustine is the oldest city in the US (450 years), which also happens to be the age of the US. It was here in the early 60s, civil rights activists protested against segregation through non-violent demonstrations like the ‘sit-ins’ at lunch counters and ‘wade-ins’ at the beaches.
“This short film records St Augustine’s acknowledgment of its racial and dark past by the recognising the contributions of Andrew Young, the foot soldiers, and the beach protesters through the dedications and commemoration ceremonies”, he says. Further, it provides an account of the struggles and efforts made by the associates of Dr King Jr such as Dr Robert Hayling, who is called as the ‘Father of Civil Rights Act’ and Dr Dorothy Cotton. They do appear in the film and make depositions.
What might set the documentary apart is the fact that it touches upon the process of reconciliation. “The efforts of the people of St Augustine towards reconciliation underscore the importance of the non-violent philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King. It helps them in facing contemporary issues arising out of cultural diversity and differences in terms of appearance, language, and nationality. Thus, revisiting the landmark events of the civil rights movement at St Augustine is an acknowledgment of history and reconciliation,” he explains.
The Civil Rights Movement spearheaded by Dr King in the year 1964 and hence 2014 would mark its golden jubilee. And, according to the film-maker this 60-minute documentary was planned as part of the jubilee celebrations.