Virtual Cinema | Long-Lost Documentary “Nationtime” October 18, 2020
Nationtime is a long-lost documentary about the National Black Political Convention of 1972, when politicians, activists, and artists from every state gathered in Gary, Indiana, to forge a national unity platform in advance of the presidential conventions. Virtual Cinema presents the new, digitally restored director’s cut of Nationtime.
Some 3,000 delegates and 7,000 attendees came together in March 1972 at the National Black Political Convention. Nationtime offers the fascinating opportunity to see speeches by Black Panthers co-founder Bobby Seale and Pan-Africanist poet Amiri Baraka as well as Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, and many others. Comedian Dick Gregory and actors Isaac Hayes and Richard Roundtree lent their star quality and entertained the crowds. Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier narrate the film.
The convention agenda centered on issues that still connect with the national dialogue today: police brutality, economic equity, voting rights, and limited access to quality education and health care for people of color. Despite the challenges of lighting and audio quality, director William Greaves and his tiny crew captured the convention’s excitement and fervor.
The Pioneering Filmmaker
Born in Harlem, William Greaves (1926–2014) documented the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s. “I became infuriated,” he said, “by the racially degrading stereotypes that white film producers threw up on American screens.” Over his long career, Greaves produced hundreds of provocative documentaries. His 1968 experimental feature Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (Take One) was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2015.
The Timely Film
Louise Greaves, the filmmaker’s collaborator and widow, recently prepared a prologue to put Nationtime in context: “The National Black Political Convention of 1972 was a turning point in the struggle for self-determination and equal rights. The convention adjourned without reaching consensus, and some deemed it a failure. But the cry of Nationtime reverberates as America continues to wrestle with its legacy of slavery.”
Underwriting for the Film Department is provided by Tenaris and the Vaughn Foundation. Generous funding is provided by Nina and Michael Zilkha; The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea; Franci Neely; Carrin Patman and Jim Derrick; Lynn S. Wyatt; ILEX Foundation; L’Alliance Française de Houston; and The Foundation for Independent Media Arts.