Angela Davis (1944 – present)
BIOPIC-WORTHY BECAUSE: Before taking her post as a professor of history of consciousness at the University of California (she recently retired), the controversial author and political activist Angela Davis twice ran for the Vice Presidency of the United States, was connected to The Black Panthers, and has long been an advocate for race and gender equality and gay rights.
Davis has already been the subject of a documentary (Angela Davis: Portrait of a Revolutionary) and the character Laureen Hobbs in Network is loosely based on her, so it’s time to make her the subject of a feature exclusively devoted to the very dramatic Davis’s life.
Plus, not since Raiders of the Lost Arc (1983) has anyone managed to successfully depict an academic with an action-packed and exciting life. Professors deserve their due!
THE SUPPORTING CAST: Davis’s contemporaries in her long career as an activist include philosopher Herbert Marcuse, her presidential running mate (on the Communist Party ticket) Gus Hall, Nation of Islam representative Louis Farrakhan (whose Million Man March she opposed on the grounds of sexism), and her friend, lesbian activist and author Bettina Aptheker, who has the distinction of being named one of the “The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” by conservative writer David Horowitz.
SHOULD STAR: Zoe Saldana has already established herself as an actor who can pull off conventional big budget movies (Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl) and, with Avatar, can now add “action hero” to her resume. But she’s a compelling actress who could work some serious magic with the role of Angela Davis.
In the past, Saldana has resisted labeling herself a feminist, but something tells me that learning about Davis life and slipping into her cinematic skin have the potential to revolutionize Saldana’s own consciousness.
Finally, she’s played lesbian love scenes before (After Sex, with Mila Kunis), so let’s be generous and give her the chance to do it again!
PLOT POINTS: The film should open with Davis’s childhood years in Birmingham, Alabama, where Davis experienced racial segregation, then quickly hustle along to her transfer to the racially integrated New York high school where she first discovered Communism.
While much of Davis’s early life is focused on academia (she studied at Brandies, the Sorbonne in Paris, and the University of Frankfurt, just to name a few), it’s her extracurricular political activities that have made her famous. In 1970 she joined the Black Panthers in their efforts to free two men (the “Soledad brothers”) from prison. One of the prisoner’s brothers disrupted the trial in Los Angeles, staged an escape attempt, and took hostages, including a judge who was killed with a gun registered to Davis.
As a result, Davis was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List for conspiracy, kidnapping and homicide. Davis fled authorities, who later captured her in New York. After almost two years in detention she was tried and acquitted of all charges. After that, she briefly visited Cuba and was given a hero’s welcome.
In 1980 and 1984, Davis ran for Vice President on the Communist ticket with labor leader Hall (but she eventually split from the Communist Party USA and helped found the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism).
In 1997, Davis publicly came out as a lesbian in an interview with Out magazine.
TAKE A POPCORN BREAK: From 1975-1955, when Davis takes interest in Jim Jones‘s Peoples Temple, even participating in some rallies and addressing Temple members in Guyana via radio a year before Jones ordered his congregation of nearly 1,000 people to commit mass suicide. Considering the tragic outcome, Davis probably wouldn’t mind if you didn’t focus on this part of the story anyway.
SHOULD BE DIRECTED BY: Terse action movies like Strange Days and The Hurt Locker have defined the career of Kathryn Bigelow to date, so why not give her an opportunity to add a biographical slant to her oeuvre? Besides, after Point Break-ing us, she owes the world a smart and serious film about a very smart and serious woman.