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Political Film Review #658 – Political Film Society

Political Film Review #658


When the Supreme Court decided Brown v Board of Education in 1954, the focus was on the southern states, where Blacks sometimes lived near Whites but went to different schools. Yet in northern cities school segregation existed because of residential segregation. While the focus was on dramatic southern resistance to school integration, many northern cities did nothing to integrate schools. Boston was one of those cities, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court ultimately ordered Boston to use busing to move Black children into formerly White schools in 1973. That gave opponents time to organize protests when a busing plan was established for the beginning of the school year in 1974.

Instead of immediate attention to the day of turmoil when busing began, The Walk focuses on families that were to be affected. Filmviewers hoping to see that day on film have to wait almost 90 minutes before the end of the 105-minute film—and then for only about 5 minutes. Instead, the film is about family life in South Boston, thereby explaining some of the underlying resistance to integration by forced busing.

One Irish family consists of a police officer (played by Justin Chatwin), his wife (Sally Kirkland), and his daughter (Katie Douglas). Another Irish family has a grandfather (Malcolm McDowell), a son who recently had been released from prison (Jeremy Pivin), and a grandson (Matthew Blade). The two families are linked because the Irish cop had arrested the other father, and the grandson had been courting the other family’s daughter. A Black family consists of a father who was a police officer (Terrence Howard) and his daughter (Lovie Simone). The Irish cop and the Black cop are assigned to escort Blacks into the formerly all-White school.

Directed by Daniel Adams, there are two instances of racial violence in The Walk: One occurs when the White daughter throws a rock at the vehicle of the Black cop as drives through a neighborhood that Whites believe is their own. The other violence occurs when the ex-con shoots at the White cop on the day of integration, whereupon the Black cop performs CPR and accompanies him to the hospital. At the hospital, both children are in the waiting room and interact for the first time. Does tragedy bring the two families together? Answering that question will occupy discussion as filmviewers leave the film.  MH


Director Patrick Gilles has chosen a unique person to honor in I’m Charlie Walker. A self-confident African American living in San Francisco in the 1970s, driving a truck, is being treated as a second class citizen by many employers until one day he learns of an opportunity. Two Standard Oil tankers collided off the shores of San Francisco on January 19, 1971, and there is a need to clean up 800,000 gallons of oil. Showing up to do the job, various contractors are selected for several beaches, but nobody else wants Stinson beach in Marin County—that is, until Charlie Walker (played by Mike Colter) raises his hand and gets the job. While the other contractors are baffled about how to remove oil from beaches, Charlie gets a road digger to provide the technology, has hippies as volunteers to help, and summons the press to cover his success. The film then portrays the oil executive, Mr. Bennett (Dylan Baker), as a crook who is easily seduced by a White woman cooperating with Charlie. Several incidents show how Charlie Walker navigates blackmail, licenses, permits, racism, and more, emerging with nearly a million dollars in cash. When the film ends, a title declares that the story is fictional, but the next title contradicts the first, and a video of the real Charlie Walker is presented. For some, the film is a lot of fun. For others, there is a window into institutional racism even in liberal San Francisco.  MH



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