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Film
Title: Malcolm X
Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Denzel Washington

clip_image002Malcolm X is a 1992 adaptation of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (read my review) by Alex Haley and Malcolm X. The film begins with the depiction of the young Malcolm X in Boston and Harlem, along with his friend Shorty, and their involvement in burglary, drug dealing and prostitution. In flashbacks, the movie chronicles the life of Malcolm’s family before he was born and during his early childhood. His father was killed by the KKK (while it was said that he had committed suicide) and his mother was sent to a mental center. He was then separated from his siblings.

During a group robbery, Malcolm and his partners get sent to jail for 8-10 years, while his white female partners received 5 years in jail. After learning about the Nation of Islam and its teachings by one of the prisoners, Malcolm converts to the Nation of Islam while corresponding with the its minister, Elijah Mohammed. He educates himself in prison, and after leaving, becomes the main speaker of the movement, preaching Elijah Mohammed’s teachings of complete separation between whites and blacks, and that all whites were racists and enemies. However, Malcom’s feelings change after his pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was touched by seeing Muslims of all races and colors together. While preaching his new, flexible beliefs, he receives death threats and was ultimately assassinated.

Malcolm X is a very good movie, albeit being pretty long (3 and a half hours). Malcolm’s life before joining entering jail could have been shortened; I was more interested in his stint as an activist. His troubled young-adulthood was too detailed, in my opinion. We get that he was involved in all sorts of trouble. But the director, Spike Lee, who also played Shorty in the film, did a good job of showing Malcolm as an innocent young adult who just wanted to be cool, hypnotized by the “slave mind”, as Malcolm puts it. The film also depicted how Betty, Malcolm’s wife, sensed that he was in trouble even before Malcolm did. Since Malcolm revered Elijah Mohammed, it was difficult for him to imagine being betrayed by that person who changed his life.

I would recommend reading the book before watching the movie. The movie was very true to the book, and it was easy to follow. At the end of the movie, following real footage after Malcolm X’s assassination, Ossie Davis narrated Malcolm’s legacy and a scene with Nelson Mandela speaking to students about Malcolm X.

Malcolm’s story is a sad one, and showed that a person who wanted to change his/her society always suffered.

Malcolm X the film is available for rent and purchase on iTunes.

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