William Klein

T. alt.: Eldridge Cleaver. Black Panther. Scen., F., M.: William Klein. Int.: Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver. Prod.: L’Office national pour le commerce et l’industrie cinématographique (ONCIC). 16mm. L.: 779 m. D.: 71’. Col, Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

A highly political, powerful documentary about Eldridge Cleaver, the American writer, political activist, and convicted rapist who was an early leader of the Black Panther Party. At the peak of the civil rights movement, in the late 1960s, the director and the legendary photographer William Klein was in Algiers making a documentary about the Pan-African Cultural Festival (later released as Le Festival Panafricain d’Alger and highly recommended). Around that time Cleaver arrived in Algiers, having fled the US after being involved in a shootout in 1968. Klein took the opportunity to interview Cleaver. The filmmaker talked with him about his political opinions, his  aim  to  provoke a global revolution and  documented, en passant, his life as a political acti ist in exile. In terms of aesthetics, Klein takes the militant visual appearance of civil rights movement as a model and constructs a perfectly shaped and stylised film that seeks almost no equivalent in the world of documentary filmmaking.

Karl Wratschko

In a world dominated by digital projection, we tend to forget that cinema is a photographic art. The film medium, the choice of emulsion and colours, is central to the work of cinematographers. To direct his film on Eldridge Cleaver, photographer William Klein deliberately opted to work with Ektachrome, a reversal emulsion that provides a highly specific range of dense colours. The print presented, itself in Ektachrome, appears to be handmade: the French intertitles have been inserted afterwards, the subtitles are physically engraved in the print and handwritten notes are legible. Here, as in other arts, we have the tangible feeling that the artefact itself is the work of art. Cinémathèque16 has been preserving this print since 2017, after receiving it from the collection of the French actor Gérard Rinaldi (1943-2012). The reel is fragile, and yet its colours show no sign of deterioration, enabling audiences to enjoy the full experience of this politically engaged film.

Benoît Carpentier and Naeje Soquer

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