Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Grim Doc Chronicles People’s History of U.S. via Gravestones

As typically taught in grades schools around this country, U.S. history is a series of lessons of conquest and exploitation as told from the perspective of the victors who were most often white and male. I remember learning that Native-Americans had to go because they were standing in the way of progress and that African slaves were godless, cultureless heathens who took well to bondage.
Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind is a poignant documentary, which silently offers another point-of-view, simply by visiting the graves of famous anti-establishment figures and reading what’s written on their tombstones. For instance, there’s John Brown, the messianic religious leader who perhaps ought to be considered a patriot for leading a slave revolt at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.
Also among the controversial anti-heroes appreciated here posthumously, are everyone from beheaded Indian chief Metacomet to abolitionists Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison to feminist Susan B. Anthony to suffragette Elizabeth Cady Staton to Malcolm X to Paul Robeson to James Baldwin to Crazy Horse to Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman to union organizer Mother Jones to environmentalist Rachel Carson to Medgar Evers to anti-war activist Philip Berrigan to hell-raiser Emma Goldman to Soledad Brother George Jackson to Thomas Paine to anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells.
Among the more memorable epitaphs is that of Red Jacket who died in 1830: “When I am gone, the graft and avarice of the white man will prevail. My heart fails me when I think of my people soon to be scattered and forgotten.” Equally evocative are the words etched into the tomb of Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin in the Sun: “I care. I care about it all. It takes too much energy not to care.”
Then there’s the matter-of-fact eloquence of voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer whose gravestone simply reads, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” In its own quiet way, Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind adds up to quite a moving, if belated tribute to a host of visionary iconoclasts who were unappreciated if not outlawed or outright assassinated in their time.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 58 minutes
Studio: Anthology Film Archives

To see a trailer of Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7j-FIjAY500

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