The 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act is this July 2nd, two days before Independence Day commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence of the United States of America from the Kingdom of Great Britain (now officially known as the United Kingdom).
As an independent nation we went our own way even when The Slavery Abolition Act throughout the British Colonies was passed in 1833. Cynically one might say their act was motivated less by altruism than by what had become political and economic realities. However, the abolitionists on both sides of the sea saw it the same way that those of us with eyes are seeing the issues of economic inequality today. It is immoral and unjust that one human should own another, whether in slavery, in economic servitude or in sexual servitude.
However, fifty years ago, such unequal and inhuman treatment of fellow human beings was still being justified and upheld by a powerful elite, and it took almost super-human fortitude for those opposed to persevere to break the stranglehold of that group. As a young girl, a “Freedom Rider” came and spoke to my class at Temple Isaiah Religious School in West L.A. and I was inspired to do all I could for the ongoing fight for civil rights, which of course changed the world for everyone – from it came “women’s lib” and GLBT’s fight for equality (Stonewall was 40 years ago June 29). And yet, the economically poor African American and Latino populations are still objects of discrimination today. The repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the South freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval is seeing discrimination at the polls reasserting itself.
This January when I saw “Freedom Summer” directed by Stanley Nelson in Sundance, I felt inspired once again to do something!
But, all I can do is write and so I take pen to hand and invite others to be aware and to act wherever they are.
At the 2nd Louisiana International Film Festival this spring, “Freedom Summer” won the Best Documentary Award and it will open in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
The Louisiana FF parenthetically has two cineastes, well-known to all of us film folks, as Artistic Directors: Jeff “The Dude” Dowd and Dan Ireland.
Jeff could be subject of a book, but for now, suffice it to say Jeff Dowd ("Zebrahead") is famously the inspiration for the Dude in the Coen Bros.' "The Big Lebowski,"
Dan Ireland on the other hand, is the subject of this blog because he has done something beyond just showing a great film. Dan, a man of action, also co-founded the Seattle Film Festival with Darryl MacDonald who is Director of the Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival. The Seattle Film Festival just had its own anniversary of 40 years and it featured a retrospective of some of Dan’s 22 films which he has exec produced, produced or directed.
And now, he has produced a new film, a short film called “Hate From A Distance” which will be the center piece of a special event this Wednesday, July 2nd, on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at The Museum of Tolerance in Beverly Hills
The film is an adaptation of a short story inspired by Civil Rights in America, set in Savannah, Georgia in 1963, told through the innocent eyes of an eleven-year old boy who is witness to the bitterness and hatred his father has for an African American dairy farmer living on the other side of a fence, separating physically and racially the very state of America during a most disgraceful and turbulent period in history.
The film was made and dedicated to the memory of and the 50th anniversary of The Civil Rights Act and as a voice that though we live by the Act, there is so much more that needs to be done to establish unity and equal rights in this country and the world.
Seen through the innocent eyes of eleven-year-old Danny Baker, racial tensions run rampant and deep in 1963 rural Georgia. Danny’s father Ned and neighbor Clyde Fellow, once childhood friends, are now divided over a land dispute in an era of inequality. Ned’s escalating anger, fueled by his own distorted righteousness, ultimately destroys his family and tears the community apart.
“ Hate from a Distance” reflects the injustices of a painful chapter of American history while honoring and 50th anniversary (July 2, 1964) of the Civil Rights Act abolishing segregation.
The film had its world premiere Saturday June 7th in a retrospective of Dan's history with “The Whole Wide World”, at Seattle Int’l Film Festival.
It will show again this Wednesday at The Museum of Tolerance in Beverly Hills. The 19 minute screening will be followed by an introduction of the cast and a brief panel discussion and audience Q&A with Dr. Robert and Helen Singleton, Freedom Riders, activists and educators, Dr. Max Felker-Kantor, USC graduate with PhD in History (emphasis on race, civil rights and social movements) and moderated by journalist-author-activist David Ehrenstein. David is an American critic who focuses primarily on LGBTQ issues in cinema. Ehrenstein was born in New York City. His father was a secular Jew with Polish ancestors, and his mother was of African-American and Irish descent. His mother raised him in her religion, Roman Catholicism. Among those invited are educators, students, members of organizations such as ACLU , NAACP , U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, journalists and activists.
Writer/Producer Dennis Yares's grandparents left Poland prior to the German occupation and most remaining relatives perished under Nazi regime. He was born
in Israel and moved to N.Y. as a young boy. He made his professional reputation as an art gallerist, in addition, he also wrote the screen adaptation of
E.L. Doctorow's classic short story, “Jolene”, which was directed by Dan Ireland.
He wrote a short story as one of his collection of 52 stories and when he realized it was the 50th anniversary this year. He and Dan as the director, stepped up and co-produced the film in the spring - in three weeks.
It features a score by composer Harry Gregson-Williams and Tom Howe, who will also attend the screening.