Monthly Archives: September 2017

“FATHER GOOSE”—Meet Walter Eckland

“FATHER GOOSE”

Meet Walter Eckland

Amos Lassen

American beachcomber Walter Eckland (Cary Grant) is an unkempt, unshaven and uncouth beach bum who loves his booze. He has been coerced into serving as a coast-watcher on a remote South Pacific island during the outbreak of World War II by his Aussie friend Navy Commander Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard). “Mother Goose” is Eckland’s code name and Houghton’s is “Big Bad Wolf.” For every enemy plane movement spotted, Mother Goose gets a bottle of whiskey. Ordered to rescue a fellow spotter on another nearby island, Walter finds French teacher, Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron), and her seven schoolgirls, who are on the island because their American plane set them there to go on a rescue mission of a plane crash. Walter takes them all back to his paradise island, and Catherine tries to reform Walter of his drinking and coarse language. 

“Father Goose” was Cary Grant’s penultimate movie and he was still able to deliver the charm and comedy that he has been known for. Yet ironically “Father Goose” isn’t a movie which asks for Grant to be charming, it asks for him to be a curmudgeon who becomes frustrated by not only being forced to help the war effort but losing his island to a woman and her class of girls who force him out of his home and hide his booze. But you can’t take the charm out of Cary Grant and even when he is playing a curmudgeon he is a charming one. In fact, I would say that Grant is the reason why “Father Goose” despite now being over 50 years old is still a lot of fun. But it is also the combination of the writing and direction with Ralph Nelson keeping the movie ticking over with one joke following another but with just enough breathing room so that it doesn’t become a gag movie.

Leslie Caron acts with a sense of polite bossiness which she gives Catherine and compared to Walter is truly beautiful. There is great romantic chemistry between the two stars the comic timing between them works. In fact the comic timing works just as well with the younger actresses who play the school “Father Goose” is a new addition to the Olive Signature Series and it is released as a Blu ray disc.

OLIVE SIGNATURE FEATURES 

  • New Restoration from 4K Scan of Original Camera Negative
  • Audio commentary by film historian David Del Valle
  • “Unfinished Business: Cary Grant’s Search for Fatherhood and His Oscar” – with Marc Eliot, author of Cary Grant: A Biography
  • “My Father” – internet pioneer Ted Nelson discusses director Ralph Nelson
  • Universal Newsreel footage featuring Leslie Caron
  • Essay by Village Voice critic Bilge Ebiri

 

“GARETH THOMAS V HOMOPHOBIA: HATE IN THE BEAUTIFUL GAME”— Gay in Football

“Gareth Thomas v Homophobia: Hate in the Beautiful Game”

Gay in Football

Amos Lassen

It has been fifty years since the partial decimalization of homosexuality took place in England and Wales and Gareth Thomas takes a look at what he sees as the last bastion of open homophobia in sport – professional football. Meeting fans, players and pressure groups alike, he wants to find out what is preventing gay footballers from coming out.

In the world of rugby union, openly gay former Wales and Lions captain Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas has proved time and time again that “where there’s a will, there’s a way” or in his case – there’s a winner. We see how difficult it is to face the disturbing reality of the truth behind homophobia in the not so beautiful game and that there is a apparent lack of a support program for any footballer thinking about coming out to his teammates and the public alike.

Gareth has discovered the shocking view that since no player in the Premier League is “officially” gay, there is “seemingly” no need for such a program. Yet with around 5,000 professional footballers in the UK, such is not only a statistical improbability, but also a sheer impossibility. Indeed, Gareth’s own agent confirmed that he knows of a number of gay footballers that are living lies and in fear. What is so shocking is the “normality” of homophobia. As bad as verbal abuse is, it is nothing when compared to the appalling abuse found online Gareth offered to meet with those who posted such hate but they all declined.

More than willing to meet Gareth however were others who shared his desire to show homophobia the red card one of whom is Amal Fashanu, the niece of Justin Fashanu; namely the sole player in the UK ever to come out while playing the game only to suffer a tragic end. Credit must go to all those players who participate/d in the likes of Kick It Out, Football v Homophobia and Rainbow Laces, all being praiseworthy campaigns aimed at challenging discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at all levels in football. There are run by those who truly care about making the game a beautiful one but the absolute power to make it so, again does not lie with them. It is with the Football Association and the Premier League itself. Gareth requested meetings with FA Chairman Greg Clarke and PL Chief Executive Bill Bush to discuss the situation with them direct. They declined to meet.

Gareth went where some would have preferred him not to and he so with legal advice. He created formed his own “Code of Practice”; an action plan aimed at eliminating homophobia within professional football and one that he duly emailed to the Football Association, the Premier League, the Professional Footballers’ Association and all 92 clubs in England and Wales. What they will do with this highly constructive document remains open to question.

Gareth is a man who gets things done and here he’s done his upmost to address the issue of homophobia in professional football head-on.

“The Prague Sonata” by Bradford Morrow— Music and War

Morrow, Bradford. “The Prague Sonata”, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017.

Music and War

Amos Lassen

Meta Taverner is a young musicologist received a gift from a friend named Irena, a Czech immigrant living out her final days in Queens—-pages of a worn and weathered original sonata manuscript. Meta’s career of a concert pianist was ended by an injury. Meta believes that the sonata is an authentic eighteenth-century work and that it is the work of a master composer however, there is no indication as to who that composer might be. With the gift came the request that Meta attempt to find the manuscript’s true owner who was from Prague who the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart and in doing so Meta could make the three-part sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even when it becomes clear that she isn’t the only one after the music’s secrets.

Otylie’s father died as a casualty of war and he left behind his nine-year-old daughter who he’d been training to be an accomplished pianist with a music manuscript she knew to be his most prized possession. Otylie swears never again to sing or play music and so when Prague became involved in war, she divided the sonata into three parts. In this way, the Nazis would not get the complete work. She knew that the sonata might be historically important and she wanted to protect it. She kept one movement for herself, sent another by messenger to her husband who had disappeared into the underground resistance movement, and gave a third to friends.

Meta learned that she was not the only one looking for answers about the script. The story moves back and forth through time in a beautiful yet compelling manner and we gain interesting background information about several well-known characters that played a part in WWII.

In a beautifully written and plotted book, we read about love, loss and the human heart.

“The Prague Sonata” is epic and intimate at the same time and it shows us that love and sacrifice are part of how we live. We revisit history and are taken back to World War I, World War II, the fall of the Soviet Union and back to the present day.

“No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the Making of Modern Israel” by Shimon Peres— Last Words from One of Israel’s Founding Fathers

Peres, Shimon. “No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the Making of Modern Israel”, Custom House, 2017.

Last Words from One of Israel’s Founding Fathers

Amos Lassen

Shimon Peres was one of Israel’s founding generation. He was a tireless advocate for peace, who lived his life with a sense of hope and possibility. These are his final words and they deliver a strong message.

Shimon Peres was eleven-years-old when he emigrated to the land of Israel from his native Poland in 1934. He left behind an extended family who would later be murdered in the Holocaust. Peres become one of the towering figures of the twentieth century and served Israel as prime minister, president, foreign minister, and the head of several other ministries. He was central to the establishment of the Israeli Defense Forces and the defense industry that would give the young country its military power. He was crucial to launching Israel’s nuclear energy program and to the creation of its high-tech “Start-up Nation” revolution. His refusal to surrender to conventional wisdom and political norms helped to save the Israeli economy and prompted some of the most daring military operations in history, among them the legendary Operation Entebbe. As important as his role was in creating and deploying Israel’s armed forces was, he transitioned from hawk to dove and held an unwavering commitment to peace.

Peres finished writing this book only a few weeks before his death and in it he examines the crucial turning points in Israeli history through the eyes of having been a decision maker and eyewitness. Much of his book is about what happened and why it happened. He explores what makes for a great leader, how to make hard choices in a climate of uncertainty and distress. He shares the challenges of balancing principles with policies, and the freeing nature of imagination and unpredicted innovation. By doing so, he charts a better path forward for his Israel and gives deep and universal wisdom for younger generations who seek to lead in any area. Amos Oz has said that he was one of the great leaders of Israel for more than half a century, was an unusual statesman: a dreamer and a pragmatist, a thinker and a doer, a fearless campaigner for peace and compromise and a tireless builder of Israel’s armed forces” and this is what makes this book so special. His voice and vision are not only still with us, and just as forceful and relevant as ever.

“ETCHED IN GLASS: THE LEGACY OF STEVE ROSS”— Finding a Second Life

“Etched in Glass: The Legacy of Steve Ross”

Finding a Second Life

Amos Lassen

We have had so many stories and films about the Holocaust that for one to have something new to say, it must really be special and special is “Etched in Glass”. The film is the real-life story of how one remarkable Polish man found a second life in America and dedicating his life to helping people. This is the story of Steve Ross who spent five terrible and horrific years in ten concentration camps when he was a child and then spent the rest of his life in the service of his adopted country, America, as he searched for the American soldier who helped free him from “the gates of hell” and the most terrible time in the history of the world. I do not know Steve Ross but I am still new to Boston but I have known stories like this as well as others from having lived with Holocaust survivors on my kibbutz in Israel. Perhaps that is why I opened this review the way that I did.   I am worried that too many stories could lessen the impact of what we have to know about German anti-Semitism during the period around World War II.

Steve Ross, along with others, tells us about his survival, his emigration to the United States and his resettlement in the Boston area. We meet Ross’ first and oldest friend in America who is now a retired surgeon and we learn how Steve coped with his first taste of American life.

We follow Ross from being a shy timid orphan to becoming a licensed psychologist. We see how he changed lives over and over again, by getting kids off the streets and away from crime. and into the classroom. We meet a man who was saved from a life of crime, urged to get an education and who became a successful attorney and who feels that he owes his life to Steve Ross, his mentor. Ross worked his own way through college are earned three degrees just so he could be an advocate and advisor to young, at-risk people who needed help most and this is what he has done for over 40 years. Steve Ross is also responsible for the founding of the New England Holocaust Memorial. We learn how it came about with the aid of former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn and the idea being fostered with tenacity by Ross.

There was initial opposition but the now-iconic memorial stands on Boston’s Freedom Trail and it is there in order to educate and enlighten thousands of visitors each week.

On Veterans’ Day at the ceremony at Boston’s State House on November 11, 2012, the film ends emotionally. It is there that Ross finally meets the family of the soldier who liberated him from Dachau after a 67-year search (thanks to an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” found on You Tube by the granddaughter of the soldier). This is an amazing and touching story not only about Steve Ross but also about the union of 2 families who were brought together by the good deed of a soldier who showed kindness to a teenage boy near death. Like other Holocaust films, this is a story of survival, perseverance and hope. Unlike other Holocaust films, this has Steve Ross.

LEWIS BLACK “BLACK TO THE FUTURE”— From the King of Rant

Lewis Black “Black To The Future” 

From The King of Rant

Amos Lassen

Lewis Black is known as the King of Rant and he is known to skewer anything and anyone that gets under his skin. Now you can have Lewis Black for your own on CD and DVD on October 13th and on vinyl on December 8th, 2017. The CD and DVD each contain a different BONUS performance

“Lewis Black: Black To The Future” and on his fifty minute DVD, Lewis uses his trademark style of comedic yelling and animated finger-pointing to skewer anything and anyone that gets under his skin. His live performances give us a cathartic release of anger and disillusionment. Black is a passionate performer who is a more of a pissed-off optimist than a mean-spirited curmudgeon. He is a rare comic who can cause an audience to laugh themselves into silly while making compelling points about the absurdity of our existence. The DVD was recorded live in New York City and we watch as Lewis sheds light on this crazy, messed-up world. Also included on the DVD is a full-length 50 min bonus program “The Rant Is Due: Live From Napa”. On this special night, which is moderated by Lewis’ amazingly funny and talented friend Kathleen Madigan, audience members at the theatre and across the Internet ask questions directly to Lewis onstage. The results are some vey funny rants. Note that “The Rant Is Due: Live From Napa” is on the DVD only.

The CD is a double CD set with 2 full-length stand-up comedy programs. Disc 1 contains the main program, “Lewis Black: Black To The Future” recorded Live in NYC. Disc 2 contains a second full-length program “Lewis Black: This Should Have Been A Special” recorded live at Milwaukee’s historic Pabst Theater in 2016. It is the comedy set that was almost lost.

The vinyl is a double album set pressed on orange vinyl with 2 full-length stand-up comedy programs. Disc 1 contains the main program, “Lewis Black: Black To The Future” and disc 2 contains a second full length program, “Lewis Black: This Should Have Been A Special” recorded live at Milwaukee’s historic Pabst Theater in 2016. It is the same comedy set that is on the CD.

Lewis Black is not for everyone. His anger his so clearly exaggerated for comedic purposes (something he actually kind of admits to) that it’s hard to actually find the mock anger annoying. For those who don’t like Black’s style, Lewis Black: Black to the Future isn’t going to be the most fun to watch. For those who do enjoy Black’s style of humor, this is about as hilarious and entertaining as Black has ever been. While the special is mostly about the 2016 election, there are enough side topics and detours that the majority of the material will still probably hold up now that 2016 is over. Black is a very smart comedian, one who does a great job at analyzing and talking about problems without seeming pretentious or preachy. He delivers a great blend of political commentary and dirty jokes. Even those who don’t like political comedy are likely to enjoy some of Black’s points here. Not every single joke works, and there are couple times where there’s a bit too much space between punch lines but overall “Black to the Future” is great fun.

“GLITTERBOYS AND GANGLANDS”— The Miss Western Cape Contest

“Glitterboys and Ganglands”

The Miss Western Cape Contest

Amos Lassen

In “Glitterboys and Ganglands,” a documentary directed by Lauren Beukes, three contestants in the Miss Gay Western Cape contest are featured in interviews leading up to the contest as well as in their performances competing against each other. Miss Gay Western Cape is the largest drag performance contest in South Africa and while lighthearted, the film addresses issues such as poverty, sexual violence and HIV.

This is a slightly unusual beauty pageant. It follows following the lives of a ballroom dancing mechanic, a pre-op transsexual trapeze artist and a pageant power couple. The contestants are queer and black, or mixed race and female impersonators. It is intenerating that this pageant take place in a community where historical social issues of poverty, gangsterism and conservative attitudes towards sexuality are part of the context of the lives of the contestants.

This documentary was shot in 2010 but because the setting is the rather deprived Cape Flats area of Cape Town in South Africa, it has a very distinctly old fashioned feel to it.  The area is populated by ‘Coloureds‘ a multi-racial ethnic group, and time has definitely stood still for the local populace, especially the LGBT community that must constantly deal with blatant homophobia.

This is the story of the area’s most important annual pageant where the competing drag queens hope that by winning, they will take the first step to a more glamorous life. Filmmaker Lauren Beukes chooses to follow three of the contestants starting with all their preparations in the run up to the event. Kat Gilardi (“The Princess”) is managed by her boyfriend Errol who was a runner-up in Mr. Gay South Africa and who designs and make all her costumes.  Kayden van Eerden has 59 beauty pageant wins under her belt and thinks that this pageant is hers for the taking. The fact that she is a pre-op trans woman causes some consternation and objections to the fact that this disqualifies her but it brings a crude rebuttal from the Organizer who says that anyone still packing a penis can enter.

The third contestant is Eva Torez a young car mechanic who is preparing to enter the pageant for the first time, and it is he who almost unemotionally bears witness to how rough the area is with both of his brothers being killed within a few months of each other. Despite this, he is optimistic with a bright outlook on life. 

When the week of the Pageant arrives and all the contestants start rehearsing and the camaraderie between them all is touching and quite genuine.  They are very creative at designing and making their own homegrown costumes out of presumably very small budgets, and it is only Kayden who works at McDonalds during the day who spends big bucks for her couture gown (without a hint of where the money came from to pay for it).

The organizers do a good job of making the event look as glamorous as possible and everything on the big day goes extremely smoothly. That is until Kayden doesn’t even make the cut for the Top Five and she cannot wait to get out the Theater claiming the whole thing is rigged. 

‘Princess’ claims the crown and when the local tabloids catch her embracing Errol they dub the pair the ‘Posh & Becks of the Cape Flats’, which gives them great joy. This is an intriguing documentary filled with enthusiasm. It is more than just a moment in the spotlight; it is a rare opportunity for the contestants to be true to who they really are. 

“THE SKYJACKER’S TALE”— A Documentary

“The Skyjacker’s Tale”

A Documentary

Amos Lassen

In 1972, 16 people were shot on the grounds of the Fountain Valley Golf Club in St. Croix, part of the Virgin Island that was then and now an American “protectorate”. Eight died, and after a massive roundup of black militants, petty criminals, and whoever happened to be around, a self-styled revolutionary called Ishmael Muslim Ali was given multiple life sentences for the massacre.

He was born Ronald LaBeet to a local mother and a German father and he grew up poor and frustrated at the island’s color-based caste system. Technically he was an American citizen, and was drafted into the U.S. army, quickly shipped to Vietnam, and came back, like many others, radicalized by the experience. He got involved with the Black Panther movement and converted to Islam. Canadian filmmaker Jamie Kastner makes it clear that police used torture to get confessions from Ali and his codefendants and that the trial itself was a pure sham. The judge was a corporate hack appointed by Richard Nixon, and the lead lawyer, famed activist William Kunstler, just might have muddied the waters by over politicizing their defense.

Ali spent more than a dozen years in American prisons before returning to St. Croix on appeal. When that appeal was denied, he managed to smuggle a gun onboard the return flight and overpowered his guards and forced the American Airlines pilot to head for Cuba, where Kastner recently found him. Kastner does not seem to be interested in establishing Ali’s role in the first crime, although the victims of the hijacking (which happened without bloodshed) are less forgiving. Ali comes across as an unlikable character with no wisdom or insight. Here is a man who, on New Year’s Eve, 1984, hijacked a passenger flight en route to New York City from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Years earlier he been convicted for his part in a robbery that left eight people murdered, and while those facts are never in dispute, director Jamie Kastner manages to throw them aside.

The film’s early scenes focus on the two events most inextricably tied to Ali: the hijacking, in which he eventually forced the plane to land in Cuba, and the bloody event known as the Fountain Valley Massacre, which occurred in St. Croix in 1972. Kastner explores one and then the other, showing how the two crimes seem too different to have been committed by the same person. In order to take over the flight, Ali, as a prisoner, had to escape his handcuffs as well as outmaneuver several armed men. By contrast, the massacre was hard, fast, and violent, involving countless rounds unloaded rapidly at an upscale golf resort and for a small amount of money. It’s possible Ali took part in both crimes, but the mass shooting doesn’t seem to match his M.O. Also such a bloody deed also seems incongruous with a man who had served in the Vietnam War which haunted him. He subsequently rejected American ideals of democracy and embraced communism. The film makes a point that this was during the 1960s during a turbulent era in which legions of Americans went through similar forms of rebellion. In Ali’s case, he became awakened to the economic and racial inequalities in his homeland, and so he returned to St. Croix, where he supported himself through petty criminal activity while taking part in a movement for a free and independent Virgin Islands.

The first half of the film makes us question whether Ali could be a cold-blooded murderer while the second half explores how a possibly innocent man could be convicted for such a crime and punished with eight consecutive life sentences. Kastner’s theory is that the massacre hurt tourism to the islands, and so the U.S. government acted swiftly to punish Ali and several other co-defendants. Through interviews with various attorneys, law enforcement officials, and other parties who took part in the original arrest and trial, the film argues that the original proceedings amounted to a kangaroo court. Particularly, there’s the issue of whether torture was used by police to secure confessions, which the court, presided over by a flunky of the Nixon administration, treats in a manner that seems unlikely able to actual justice. Kastner gives equal time to persons on both sides of the case, yet the prosecution gradually seems less and less credible.

The film reframes the initial skyjacking as a desperate attempt to escape persecution, as opposed to a guilty man trying to avoid justice, and turns Ali into something of a hero. Kastner repeatedly uses dramatic recreations that allow for a visceral experience. During the staged version of the hijacking, there’s a moment in which the camera cuts to a series of worried reaction shots by the passengers after they learn their plane has been commandeered by none other than Ishmael Muslim Ali.

We can watch this film as an attempt to correct a possible miscarriage of justice, but it’s also a highly empathic tale of someone who made a desperate stab at freedom, only to be trapped by his own success. This is a documentary that is that filled with dramatic vibrancy and intrigue.

“BANG! THE BERT BERNS STORY”— Music! Music! Music!

“Bang! The Bert Berns Story”

Music! Music! Music!

Amos Lassen

“Bang! The Bert Berns Story” is narrated by musician and actor Steven Van Zandt and the first part is interesting in that it is not at all interesting as compared with Berns’ later years. His early years are somewhat pedestrian and it almost seems that he willed himself to be creative so he could escape his ordinary background.

Growing up in the Bronx, Berns was exposed to a wide variety of music in his youth and Manhattan was nearby, which meant that that there were plenty music publishers. aplenty were available to reject him. Eventually one recognized his potential and he began working as a songwriter in 1961 and his first hit came in the following year. Among his earliest hits, the most famous is probably “Twist and Shout,” which he co-wrote. He quickly learned about the power of record producers, and realized his own limitations as a singer so Berns became a producer as for a variety of labels.

That led to further opportunities with the famed Atlantic Records. By the time Berns came along, the label was in need of hits, and Berns delivered. His titles included Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” and the Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk,” which he produced, though he did not share in the writing of the latter. The records he made influenced young British bands like the Beatles, who recorded their own version of “Twist and Shout,” and the Rolling Stones (“Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” ).

As Berns’ career skyrocketed so did his reputation. Those interviewed in the documentary all speak warmly about their working relationships.(But then he co-directed this with his son so of course we hear only good things). Berns preferred encouraging his recording artists rather than demeaning them or shouting at them, and helped to produce good recordings.

The documentary is filled with great stories. Berns befriended a good variety of people in his lifetime, and his more criminally minded friends proved to be extremely helpful when it came to certain business dealings — all of which is remembered in an amusing tone. As a child, Berns began suffering from a heart condition, which would plague him periodically through the years and eventually cut his life short. His musical career lasted less than ten years and it is quite amazing to see how deeply the music he wrote and/or produced still continues to resonate.

Berns was known in some musical circles as “the white soul brother” and I learned that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was in awe of his songwriting talent. Janis Joplin covered “Piece of My Heart” and caught all its heartbreak. “Hang on Sloopy” has been loved by many through the years and other notable songs include “Here Comes the Night, ” “Cry Baby,” and “Cry to Me.” He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame but many are still unaware of Bert Berns, a Jewish kid from the Bronx who lived a fast and furious life and who died 1967 at the age of 38.

During his youth, Berns spent years in isolation after rheumatic fever scarred his heart. He used the time to learn to play piano and guitar. Early on, he discovered the high cost of making a mark in the music business— it was a business filled with power plays, violence, pay-offs, and more. We see the ease with which the creative people involved celebrate the rock & pop vitality of his songs. We hear from greats including Van Morrison, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Ben King, Cissy Houston, Brenda Reid, Solomon Burke and others.

His career only spanned eight years but in that time he completely remade music in his image. In the 50s he fell in love with Cuban music, particularly the mambo and he brought his love of Latin rhythms into his music. He began working as a $50 a week songwriter for a tiny New York publishing firm and wrote a couple of songs that got mild airplay that eventually caught the attention of Atlantic Records, then the giant of R&B music.

The documentary is definitely a labor of love, co-directed by his son Brett. The film is largely a parade of talking heads interspersed with archival stills but that’s largely a necessity. There wasn’t a lot of behind the scenes footage taken back then and performance video wouldn’t become a regular thing until the MTV era.

We hear from those who worked with Berns, from performers to engineers. We also hear from his siblings and most importantly, from his wife Ilene – a former go-go dancer. The music business is full of sharks and Berns rapidly learned to swim with them. He nurtured and developed the careers of Neil Diamond and Van Morrison; he also was one of the most prolific and successful producers in the history of Atlantic Records and he remains one of the few people who ever partnered with the main trio of Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler and Nesuhi Ertegun in founding Bang Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic and the namesake of the documentary.

His legacy is mainly in the music and the soundtrack is packed with it.

“HEATHER BOOTH: CHANGING THE WORLD”— “The Most Influential Person You Never Heard Of’

“Heather Booth: Changing the World”

“The Most Influential Person You Never Heard Of’

Amos Lassen

Heather Booth is a renowned organizer and activist who began her remarkable career at the height of the Civil Rights movement. This film explores many of the most pivotal moments in progressive movements that altered our history over the last fifty years: from her involvement with Fannie Lou Hamer and the Freedom Summer Project, to her founding of the JANE Underground in 1964, to her personal relationships with respected leaders such as Julian Bond and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Through interviews with close friends, clients, political colleagues and current Midwest Academy students, director Lily Rivlin explores Heather’s legacy in progressive politics and organizing.

Booth at 71, is one of the nation’s most influential organizers for progressive causes. For the last 50 years, Booth has been there fighting for fair pay, equal justice, abortion rights, workers’ rights, voter rights, civil rights, immigration rights, child care and wherever there is inequality. She has improved the lives of tens of millions of Americans who never knew her name.

In the film, Booth describes her first entry into activism when, in her early teens, she stood by herself in New York City’s Times Square handing out leaflets urging an end to the death penalty. Booth was a founder of the modern women’s movement, a role that started in 1964 when she helped set up the covert abortion network. This began when she learned that a friend was pregnant. She recruited other volunteers and other doctors. Eventually it became on ongoing organization called the Jane Underground. By some estimates, the Jane Underground group helped secure between 11,000 and 13,000 abortions for women in need between 1965 and 1973, when the Supreme Court finally legalized abortions in “Roe v. Wade”.

Booth has trained and mentored some of the nation’s most effective and influential organizers and activists. She has worked with liberal and progressive groups and activists that include MoveOn, the NAACP, USAction, People’s Action, Planned Parenthood, Alliance for Citizenship and the Voter Participation Center, to the National Organization for Women, the National Council of La Raza, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and the Center for Community Change.

This film explores many of the most pivotal moments in progressive movements that altered our history over the last fifty years through the lens of Booth’s work. She combines a generosity of heart, a lifelong commitment to social justice, and a remarkable talent for inspiring others and thinking strategically.