Monday, January 16, 2006

Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed: DVD Review

Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed (2004) is an excellent documentary that tells the story of Shirley Chisholm, the first black Congresswoman and the first black woman to make a serious bid for the presidency, running as a candidate for the Democratic nomination in 1972.

One of the films strengths is its strong reliance on footage from the period, rather than contemporary interviews (of which there are a few) and voice-over narration (of which there's none). These images give a real sense of the time in which the story took place, a time that--due to the emerging feminist and black equality movements--was both more politically hopeful and active than ours and, in its own way, equally cynical. Chisholm '72 is ostensibly a study in inspiration and individual courage, but it's also a study in how quickly political progressive momentum can be stifled by the status quo. Even many black politicians and feminist leaders were reluctant to support Chisholm, feeling that she simply couldn't win.

At just over an hour, the documentary is a little on the short side, and many viewers will be left feeling that they wished they'd gotten a better glimpse at the personal side of Chisholm and how she made the transition from schoolteacher to relentless campaigner in the face of such opposition. Some extras--such as some of Chisholm's campaign speeches and some unedited interviews--would have been nice as well, but the DVD has none.

All in all, an excellent portrait of an inspiring person, unflappable in the face of adversity, and ultimately a portrait of a time that is both astoundingly different from ours and simultaneously, sadly, too much the same.

FilmStocker Rating: A

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