The Academy Award-nominated ADAM CLAYTON POWELL delves into the gripping life and career of the most influential and flamboyant civil rights leader in America in the '30s, '40s and '50s. From his emergence as the princely pastor of Harlem's enormous Abyssinian Baptist Church, to his improbable, riotous political climb and eventual ruin, this must-watch film captures a man who was truly larger than life.
Narrated by civil rights activist Julian Bond and resplendent with rich archival footage and candid interviews with those who knew him best, this tell-all documentary mines the good, bad, and ugly acts of Powell's illustrious but controversial career - the multiple marriages, the uproarious taunting of the white establishment, his desegregation of Congress, and his shameful smearing of Martin Luther King, Jr. from self-imposed exile on the island of Bimini.
An unforgettable story of being unforgivably black in white America, ADAM CLAYTON POWELL makes for ''endlessly fascinating, thoroughly enjoyable'' viewing (Chicago Sun-Times). Masterfully directed by Richard Kilberg, this film explores the nature of power, personality, and politics as exemplified in a flawed, but sublime hero.
Handsome, passionate, and an electrifying speaker, Adam Clayton Powell rose from being the son of a Harlem preacher to being a powerful 12-term Congressman--but his many accomplishments have been forgotten in the wake of the self-indulgence, arrogance, and demagoguery that dominated Powell's later years. It's a genuine American tragedy. A man who was, for a time, the voice of black America was brought low by the very qualities that fueled his rise. The documentary Adam Clayton Powell strives to bring balance to our view of this polarizing yet crucial political figure through historical context and interviews with black leaders like Shirley Chisholm (the first black woman elected to Congress), but above all by including footage of Powell himself from the various periods of his life: The dynamic firebrand who spoke out against the repressive political establishment and fought furiously against segregation; the wily crowd-pleaser who flaunted his scandals and became all the more popular for it; and the bitter, smug old man who arrogantly dismissed his younger rivals for influence (including Martin Luther King, Jr.). This rich and engaging documentary is eye-opening in its depiction of Powell's remarkable achievements, but it can barely contain Powell's force of life and capacity for self-destruction. He's a larger-than-life figure waiting for a major motion picture to be made about him. Both his rise and his fall are mesmerizing. --Bret Fetzer