Good but lacking
SuperAmanda | London | 02/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was slightly annoyed after seeing this again recently, for the first time since the 1998 centennial. The analysis of Robeson and the USSR is embarrassingly overly simplified and frankly lacking in depth given that the BBC turns out the greatest television programs and documentaries.The writers and researchers of this BBC documentary seem somewhat new to Robeson and it shows. The director compressed his life into an hour and they left too many important things out (much of his films history, discography, anti-lynching, anti-colonialism). With only one hour though they did an admirable job, but the problem is with Robeson one always wants and expects more information, given how much has been suppressed. Granted the footage is some of the best in any of the Paul Robeson documentaries including the sections on Peekskill and on the Soviet Union (priceless footage of Robeson at Yalta with Khrushchev) and many Robeson homes and landmarks as they look today. But the written narration is not complex at all, given the subject matter the BBC should ahve allotted an entire two to three hours. Pete Seeger, Oscar Grant Jr. and Studs Terkel really lay it on harsh though, the way it should be, they don't sugar coat the atrociousness with which Paul Robeson was treated by both the black and white establishment. Pam Grier, one of my favorite screen goddesses narrates but they keep her voice to weaker and softer then it should have been to orally chronicle such a passionate life. Still, "Speak of me as I am" is recommended but watch "Here I Stand: American Master PBS" and the less sophisticated (shot on 16,mm during the late 70's on a lower budget) but superior in content and structure 'Tallest Tree in the Forest" directed by Gil Noble, first."