"Revolution" Opens in Manhattan

Revolutionary Worker #1250, August 22, 2004, posted at http://rwor.org

It's five minutes before seven on a Tuesday night, August 10, and there's an expectant crowd hovering at a table outside Symphony Space's Thalia Theater, their names on a waiting list. The New York City premiere of the new film of a talk by RCP Chairman Bob Avakian, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About , is way sold out.

The ticket-less ones are themselves a cross-section of those New Yorkers who have some idea that this just can't be the best of all possible worlds and that days of danger and opportunity lie just ahead. There's Carl who lives nearby, a white guy in his 40s who helped form New Yorkers for Kucinich, but says "now we're looking for a new focus." There's Luz, a young Latina with a baby in a stroller who got a flyer a day earlier. There's E and his friend, hip hop kids who'd heard about Bob Avakian from musician friends.

By the time the lights go down, most people on the waiting list are inside, and the sidewalk is filled with a small army of youth who'd been roaming the city for the past week telling people about the film. Many are part of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade who decided at the last minute to give up their tickets to people on the list. "What a night--Bob Avakian sells out a movie theater in Manhattan!" shouts one YBer to the world.


It was a momentous evening, the culmination of three weeks of work by the Revolution DVD NYC Committee, a group recently formed to promote the film and this revolutionary leader in the center of the world's worst-ever empire. The committee had been busy: people found their way to the premiere after getting a card at a church service, a Cure concert, a Fahrenheit 9/11 movie line. Some folks had seen a piece of the film on a portable DVD player in Union Square. One guy decided to come after seeing an ad for the film in The Source , a hip hop magazine. Ads have also run nationally in The Nation and Harpers magazine, and during the week before the premiere, in the Amsterdam News , the major Black newspaper out of Harlem.

In a review of the film, Amsterdam News' Herb Boyd wrote: "Avakian.offers a full plan for revolutionary transformation, and he gets the attention of Black Americans right away on these four DVDs in his passionate discussion of lynching, police brutality, racial profiling and issues pertinent to African Americans.

"Recalling the vicious assaults on Claude Neil, Mary Turner and Emmett Till, Avakian provides a brutal and bloody outline of tragedy, and does it with a fervor that is far too uncommon coming from the mouth of a white man..."

"He condemned the current intolerable conditions, proposing that another world is possible. `His explanation of the working of the imperialist system, and how the struggle of the people can get rid of it and replace it with a just and equitable society, was powerful and uplifting,' said veteran activist Yuri Kochiyama. Indeed it is."

Boyd was on hand for the premiere, along with an uncommon array of "all the people in whose interests this world isn't shaped," as one committee member put it. There were actors and filmmakers, activists and students, academics and lawyers, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, people from Central and Latin America, South Asians, West Indians, and a few older white women from the neighborhood who had been intrigued by the huge color blow-up of the DVD in the theater's window over the past week.


The venue, Peter Norton's Symphony Space, is a well-respected performance and film center in the largely liberal, middle-class Upper West Side of Manhattan. Their 172-seat Thalia Theater was filled, mostly with people hearing Bob Avakian for the first time. The selection which was screened (the first 2-1/4 hours of the speech) elicited a deep reaction from this crowd--quiet, intense engagement, as well as laughter and applause.

One retired Black woman, who kept up a spirited call/response in the back row, had traveled by bus from New Jersey after hearing about the film from RCP National Spokesperson Carl Dix, interviewed on Pacifica radio (WBAI) that morning. She does not have a VCR or DVD player, but by the next day she was making plans with neighbors, the local library and her church to screen it. "I knew, I lived through what he was talking about, I have to see the rest of that film."

An actor interviewed after the screening was also hungry to hear more about the solution. He remarked: "Avakian's speech is a remarkable piecing together of an entire history of abuse and exploitation. He touched all those bases, and he's younger than I am. I did a movie about Lumumba recently that was on HBO. The powers erase the significance of all this, cover it over..I want to see more of this." He was especially moved by Avakian's story about the two Black athletes who raised their fists in protest during the awards ceremony at the 1968 Olympics. "I remember that well, I was in a bar when it came on TV, it was electrifying."

The film drew in people who are starting to have big questions about the extreme direction things are going in the world. One 40ish Black professional was interviewed before going in: "I have a friend who thinks it may be long-overdue to rewrite the contract between the government and the people, that the Constitution doesn't quite do it, maybe we should just start over... I'll try to keep an open mind about this film. I don't know much about the RCP. I'm not sure communism works. it will need to overcome a lot in human nature. To be generous enough and forward thinking enough to say `okay, the fruit of my labors beyond what I need can go to someone else and I'm happy about that'--we've been brought up in a capitalist society where it's very difficult for people to get to that point." After the film he said: "I have food for thought and am certainly going to think about it. I could put this forward as a piece of communist propaganda, or I could put it forward as a presentation by a very intelligent, well informed person expressing conclusions about the world and the way things are."

A 20-year-old Black student who hangs out in the spoken-word scene and had recently hooked up with NION, said: "The film made me think about everything, all the crimes, Vietnam, the fact that the land is still too poisoned today to plant crops. His point about Clinton, helping us remember that he killed thousands and thousands of people in Iraq. How the Iraqi people could figure out what they needed themselves. We need to stop all this. Bush is no different than Hitler. Seeing this premiere brought out all these feelings I have about this country. The U.S. is no good and needs to be stopped. Avakian had a feeling for me like he was a Malcolm X or an MLK--and for a white man to speak like that, to have the guts to come out like that is really amazing. This was a good movie. We gotta make the world a better place for everyone."

A theater artist showed up who's producing The Vomitorium Performance and After Party (described as "a response to the New and Improved American Empire, the Vomitorium is a theatrical performance, modeled after the opulent parties of the Roman Empire, where guests will engage in consuming astounding amounts of food, and when stuffed to the limit, vomit so that they may gorge themselves again and again.") She said after seeing Revolution : "Bob Avakian's talk has a lot of facts to download, and it made me angry at the educational system I had to go through--how little I've been informed, and I feel really humble because I haven't done the best of jobs filling in for what was not provided--what has been denied me. A long-time friend and activist told me about the premiere, insisted that I would want to see it, and I just trusted that, because I knew very little about Avakian coming into this event. My interest has been very much sharpened--I bought the DVD and as an organizer myself I plan to have a movie night in my apartment."

A number of people left with copies of the DVD and plans to do house party showings. One teacher brought two friends who she said were "kind of overwhelmed--now they want to see more and they want to talk."

More screenings of Revolution are planned during the upcoming Republican National Convention. The committee's press release reads: "Flash forward to the end of August: a river of people pouring into the streets to deliver a resounding NO to the Bush future of the world, the NYC government trying to stop these people from marching to Central Park, controversy, unprecedented struggle, the city lit up. And in churches, bars, protest encampments, cinemas and living rooms, into the night, thousands are listening to this revolutionary communist leader talking about how we can turn this whole thing upside down."

The young woman from the committee introduced the film at Symphony Space this way: "There was something very special that I experienced when I first heard this talk. I got to meet this revolutionary leader, experience his confidence in and love for the people. When I heard him talk I could see -- because he lays it out so clearly -- how the people can overcome and overturn this outmoded system that is holding humanity back, how revolution is both necessary and possible and the vision of it becomes wildly exciting, challenging, liberating, and urgent. Imagine people leaving New York City after the RNC with Bob Avakian's name on the tip of their tongues and the DVD in their backpacks.These are major goals to fill in the next couple weeks, and this is because our dreams and plans for a better world are even more humongous and unlimited. We know it is possible."

When the crowd spilled out into the street afterwards, it felt like Bob Avakian was out there among us as we talked and argued and laughed--making plans, and gathering resolve.