Harry Belafonte documentary on HBO on Oct 17 (at Live Talks on 11-28)
Harry Belafonte documentary airs on HBO on Oct 17. Here’s a piece in Bloomberg on the doc. Here’s an excerpt:
And he blended his artistry with activism, playing a key role in the civil rights movement alongside such leaders as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy (whom he pushed for more aggressive protection of blacks) and President John F. Kennedy (whom Belafonte schooled as a presidential candidate on the importance of King’s mission, while simultaneously advising King on how to work with the Kennedys).
The child of a Jamaican-born domestic worker in Harlem, Belafonte understood and condemned social injustices from a young age, and resolved to help correct them.
“I wasn’t an artist who turned activist, I was an activist who turned artist,” he explains.
Belafonte’s journey forms a connect-the-dots map of six decades of popular culture and social crusades. And it drives “Sing Your Song,” a beautifully conceived documentary about Belafonte’s life and the era the rest of us have shared with him. (It premieres Monday at 10 p.m. EDT on HBO.)
At first, he felt narcissistic and superfluous doing a documentary, says Belafonte, hosting a reporter at his awards- and mementos-filled office in the Manhattan neighborhood once known as Hell’s Kitchen.
“What have I got to say that people want to hear, if they’re not hearing it during the time I lived doing it?” he reasons. But then he learned a lesson from Marlon Brando, his old friend with whom he took acting classes in the early 1950s and subsequently became allied in the civil rights movement.
When Brando died in 2004, “I felt not only that America had lost a great artist, but a great social force,” Belafonte says. “But people knew little about his social activism, and he passed away without leaving any record of it.
“So I started going around, identifying all of the people who were my peers who had done incredible things but never talked about it. What began as a simple exercise in providing for the archives wound up taking four years of nothing but filming all over the world.”