What Roger Ebert Had to Say About Black Films

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When Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert died April 4 after a battle with cancer, a cross-cultural, countrywide coalition of fans expressed grief over the loss of the Pulitzer Prize winner.

Much has been made of his unique ability to destroy what he deemed a subpar film with a few choice biting words. But he also showed a remarkable capacity for thoughtfulness and insight, and nowhere is this more evident than in some of his reviews of black films.

Here’s what he had to say on the 1992 Spike Lee film, Malcolm X:
It “is one of the great screen biographies, celebrating the whole sweep of an American life that began in sorrow and bottomed out on the streets and in prison before its hero reinvented himself ...

Walking into
Malcolm X, I expected an angrier film than Spike Lee has made. This film is not an assault but an explanation, and it is not exclusionary; it deliberately addresses all races in its audience. White people, going into the film, may expect to meet a Malcolm X who will attack them, but they will find a Malcolm X whose experiences and motives make him understandable and finally heroic.

Reasonable viewers are likely to conclude that, having gone through similar experiences, they might also have arrived at the same place."


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