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Newark, NJ Theater Pulls 'Mumia Abu-Jamal' Documentary - Filmmakers & Mumia Cry Foul

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by Tambay A. Obenson
April 24, 2013 6:46 PM
3 Comments
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First Run Features opened the film at Cinema Village theaters in New York City, on February 12013, and it's been traveling the country since then.

It was scheduled to next open in Newark, NJ, but that's not going to happen. 

Why? Here's what I received:

NEWARK DENIED AGAIN BY WEALTHY ELITES 

On Thursday [Last week] we found out Newark's only movie theater, Cityplex-12, the ownership of which includes Shaquille O'Neal and Boraie Development, a theater that symbolizes the redevelopment of Newark and which has been championed by Mayor Cory Booker, suddenly CANCELLED our film about Mumia Abu-Jamal, pulling it from their schedule. With this act they have effectively blocked Newark citizens from seeing the film and witnessing Mumia's powerful story. After an attempt today to get a comment from Boraie Development on this decision, we were simply deferred to the theater manager, who has been unavailable and likely had no role in the matter regardless. We have yet to get an official statement on why the film was cancelled. But, as we know well, the history of attempts to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal, his voice, his writings, and now his life story, has long been motivated by a narrow political ideology. And these narrow minds, who refuse to consider Mumia beyond the scope of his case and conviction, who further refuse to acknowledge the gross injustice behind that conviction, seem incapable of allowing the screening of a film that their own customers, the people of Newark, may wish to see... a story that speaks to racial and class injustice... a story that speaks to the positions of power that seek to silence those voices who criticize power. And therein may be the answer. Because our film does not deal with the controversy of Mumia's case. But it does deal with the efforts that have been made to silence his powerful voice, which we see repeated today in this decision made by the ownership of Newark's Cityplex-12. But Mumia Abu-Jamal has never kept quiet. And neither will we.


Featuring contributions from the likes of Cornel West, Alice WalkerAngela DavisRubin Hurricane CarterDick GregoryPeter Coyote, Ruby Dee, M-1Giancarlo EspositoAmy Goodman, and many others, the new feature documentary, Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal, focuses on Abu-Jamal's career as a prolific writer and journalist from Death Row.

As the filmmakers note, the film in no way deals with Mumia’s case, but rather chronicles his life and work as a journalist, writer, philosopher, and revolutionary – both before and after his incarceration.

Further, it follows Mumia’s early career in journalism as a writer for the Black Panther newspaper (at age 15), to a reporter for NPR.

The story then exposes his battles with the legal system to continue his journalism and radio broadcasts from Death Row – a battle he continues to fight to this very day.

As noted, the film is currently traveling the USA theatrical circuit, and has already played in cities in New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Ohio, Vermont, Florida and others. It's puzzling to me that a theater in Newark would pull the film before it even debuted, after they already agreed to show it, and even had it on their schedule.

What happened? Why did they change their minds? I actually called the theater myself, but couldn't get an answer to the question, as expected. Maybe with some pressure on the theater's owners, like Shaq, and just getting the word out, as I'm doing here, will generate some results. 

It's odd that they gave no reason for pulling the film, other than that, as the filmmaker, Stephen Vittoria says, it was “inconsistent with their screening practices.” 

What does that mean exactly?

To find out what cities the film is coming to, click HERE.

In the video below, director Stephen Vittoria talks with Mumia Abu-Jamal on the so-called "Newark Situation":


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3 Comments

  • BluTopaz | April 26, 2013 12:44 PMReply

    I am not familiar with Newark, but is there an open air venue they could use to screen when the weather gets warmer? Like in Central Park or Bryant Park that show movies, of course that's on a huge scale but aren't there any parks, rooftops, etc. they could use. Now if they try to get a permit for this and are turned down, something is definitely up and they should just try to get another theater 45 minutes away in downtown Manhattan. Plus I'm seeing some controversial political subject matter on Netflix and Hulu--since this film does not even discuss Mumia's case, they could try online streaming as another approach. I understand they want to show the film in the neighborhood, but movie tix are $$$$ anyway and most people are spending money on mainstream, popular movies.

  • TryThis | April 25, 2013 6:39 AMReply

    If the film is really an attempt to get an important message to the masses...post it on youtube
    or vimeo...if it's more concerned with box office then how revolutionary can it be?

  • Vaughn Christion | April 24, 2013 7:26 PMReply

    OK, I've had some dealings with this theater trying to get a film booked there and the problem is not the on sight management (they are very nice guys), the problem lies (IMHO) with the buyers and owners. I do find it strange that a new 12 screen theater in the middle of the biggest black hood in the country does not seem to book films that are own or produced by independent black film makers, the only one I know of recently was AFFRM's "Middle Of Nowhere" and I live down the street from the theater.

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