I still haven't made up my mind completely on what to think about the burgeoning controversy over Downhill and Eyes on the Prize, but I'm going to keep the topic alive as long as I can. So if I contradict myself here, sobeit.
Having watched three episodes of the series, I am bowled over by the nuance of the documentary. It's an astounding revelation to see this material again, and it is becoming clear how quickly our contemporary correctness has diminished and even twisted the details of what made these hundreds of acts of courage part of America's greatest legacy.
Even as I applauded the boldness of Downhill's move, I hedged my bet. I have been thinking this afternoon that I might want to be the one who gets this stuff distributed in China. In fact, I watched episode one thinking how a Chinese audience (and government) might respond to these stories. As I looked at Mose Wright I thought a poor peasant in China would probably relate to him very strongly. Then how would I stand up in the future and take credit as the African American who spread the word, as a bootlegger? Hell no. And it is the matter of that particular reputation that gives me pause.
It is strong enough, especially in light of Zimmerman's argument and comment on this blog, for me to recommend against anyone being a distributor of this material. But I wouldn't go as far as I did in the case of the Nick Berg video and urge people not to download or watch it. But I can see that Blackside lawyers have already made their point and the spigot has been cut off.
What I know however is that I, among with many untold millions would still pay $100 for the box set whenever it comes out. It's just one of those items, that I cannot see an Old School family library without, right next the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Encyclopedia Africana and other critical materials. So I am very hopeful that whomever has been sitting on a large enough pile to get this thing done has been energized enough by this little blowup to place a bet.
Please, make this publicity count.
I would also disobey my own rule of not second guessing blackfolks and call on John Singleton, who just ran into a windfall at Sundance with his new pimp movie 'Hustle & Flow', to invest some of that studio cash into this effort. On the other hand, let Singleton go. Oprah could do this in a heartbeat. Somebody get her on the phone.
Part of the way I see this has everything to do with the fact that there doesn't seem to be anybody with the wherewithal to get the appropriate people in line. And as time goes by it will become clear whether or not Downhill's action was justified. I say if the whole series isn't available on DVD by Christmas, then we will have shown a small-mindedness that justifies all the rebellion Downhill and their ilk can muster.
I also disagree that Downhill's choice of 'Eyes on the Prize' shows a lack of respect for the Civil Rights Movement, or that the evocation is wrong. It's a brilliant choice to make the point, just as Rosa Parks was a brilliant choice for the bus boycott. We know that's how test cases are made, you pick just the right set of circumstances and press your point. This point could never be made with a Janet Jackson video. This is the right case.
Just as Apple has proven that there are real business models that can make huge money with superdistribution, something Hollywood idiots could not muster, I have a gut feeling that there is some group of people who can make this happen.
And while I don't think any amount of distribution is going to diminish the demand for the DVD boxed set (and no we don't need more voiceover commentary, just ship it as is, and then use the profits to get your bonus DVD or Collectors Edition later), I still recommend against Downhills flashmob distribution on February 8th. So I'll photoshop the icon to reflect that I'm against the distribution. It's clear to me that Zimmerman, Blackside and company are lighting a fire to raise the money. If they prove impotent however...
The right money will make everybody happy. So let's see it.