From the Premieres


March 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


There was a sense of both seriousness and real excitement as over 120 people gathered at Ferguson Hall at Columbia College on Saturday, March 16 for the Chicago premiere of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! People commented on the diversity of the audience that were all brought together to hear BA speak on the most pressing questions facing humanity. The audience was about 30 percent Black people of all ages, from high school youth, students from community colleges, and others from some of the most oppressed communities, to older people who were teachers and professionals, and people who are part of the Revolution Club and the struggle against mass incarceration and police brutality. Several people of different nationalities commented on the importance of a section of young Black people being in the house. There were a number of older Black people who said they came because they feel that the situation has become intolerable and they were looking for answers, including several people came on their own after hearing Carl Dix interviewed two days earlier on WVON, a Black radio station. About 20 percent of the audience was under 25, high school and college students and recent college graduates, as well as others of that age from the masses at the bottom of society who are working on jobs or just working to find a way to survive. The rest of audience was made up of people from all different ages, strata, interests, and nationalities—all interested in engaging BA.

There was a lively interaction between BA on the screen and the audience throughout the film. There were visceral responses and talkback to BA from a section of the Black masses, young and older, who were sitting in one part of the theater, people were expressing their agreement and appreciation for what he was saying. This affected others to either join in or who couldn't help but notice that the Black people in the audience were responding very positively to BA. One young woman said she really liked the audience, that they were so involved and interested. A young white student said he had thought that you could not criticize Obama to Black people and he was really struck by the audience reaction to this part of the film. There were people throughout the auditorium nodding vigorously at some things BA said, and many times laughter broke out in parts of the audience and applause punctuated some particularly pointed comments that many in the audience wholeheartedly agreed with. There were also open expressions of both agreement and sharp disagreement in the parts where BA takes on religion and Obama and this carried over into some serious struggle in the "smokers' lounge," the sidewalk outside.

After the intermission, when BA goes deeply into what a revolutionary situation is and how it could be possible to win in a country like this, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop because so many people were intently leaning forward wanting to hear him explain how the conditions could develop so that this system could be swept away. BA brought this question to the fore, and one woman was literally riveted during this part, commenting that "Whoa, he is actually going there." For a number of people who were very intently listening to this part wanting to know what BA had to say, there was also controversy about what he did have to say, i.e. questioning "is this really the only way?"
At the intermission and at the end there was a rich expression of what people appreciated about BA and the whole talk and what they were thinking about coming out of the film, much more than can be covered in this snapshot, but here are some of the comments:

Words people used to describe the film: "I love the film—it was powerful." "It was masterfully put."

A young Black man was asked at the intermission, "What do you think of the film?" He replied, "It's good." "What's good about it?" "That's my life."

A young woman said the most important thing she learned was, "it's not our fault." She didn't know anything about communism before she came and was surprised to find that she was not alone in her thinking, to hear someone saying what she was thinking, but had never said out loud.

The following comment by an older Black man concentrates what many other people thought about the film: "What stood out most to me was the zillions of knowledge that was compacted in six hours. I would say that for a man to be in this as long as he has, he has a very sustained amount of knowledge. This six hours, it doesn't actually explore all the knowledge I imagine he have and have for the masses. But just the short film is enough to get you started. Very much so, like you need gas to get up the road, cause you just ran out. He vitalized a lot of things that was going on in the 60s we wasn't too familiar with, didn't even know about, some of us, and he still been in the movement since then, so I take my hat off to Bob Avakian."

Many others made similar comments to this: "I was really impressed by his passion, his commitment, his sincerity. His entire speech is enough to make me want to be involved in some kind of way to help this movement. He touched on a lot of everything that's been happening. This is 2013, we've seen enough and know enough to know that the oppression is not gonna change without us."

A woman wrote on the questionnaire: "This film was powerful and comprehensive. BA's extensive knowledge of the system and historical experience on fighting it, enlightening others on it, and eventually overcoming it is timely, possible, and soon to be. I appreciate his efforts and will continue to build not only my awareness, but also participation to help humanity to break the system."

An older Latina activist said, "He really brings the definition of revolution to a very focused point… Revolution is revolution and he gives the reality of what it is. So if anybody comes along and says what is revolution—hey, I got the message right here in this film. I think it's important for young people, because they could be taking up all kinds of definitions of what revolution is. Like he said, we're talking here serious."

An older Black man commented at the end, "BA is qualified, bona fide, and should be paid attention to by everyone. Everything he put forward was very relevant to the situation and what we need to do. He gave all the proof to back it up. This is a person that can really teach people something." He compared BA's approach toward changing the world to a child's game of jacks: "Sometime you try to pick up one jack, or two, or three. Bob Avakian is about sweeping up every jack from the floor and all at once."

Several people commented on BA's internationalism—how he is concerned about and cares about the whole world. A young Black woman concentrated this in writing "I love BA. He is so connected to the oppressed people in the world and has a way of putting information in words that more of us can understand this world better." A white man said: "he has a very broad understanding, not just specifics about a certain people, but a very wide and broad perspective of the world."

A middle-aged Black man who came to the film off the WVON interview with Carl Dix said in an interview at the end when asked what struck him: "There are so many areas he spoke on that really allowed me to picture what could be possible, such as globally where people's needs could be met in a format where there could be justice for all people. I feel this is the terms that need to be brought to the mass of the people. For me personally, I didn't have an overview on how to combat the umbrella that was basically covering so much mass destruction. As far as communism, the way I had understood it was a sense of oppression. He made it crystal clear why the word communism was brought to the surface of things. I thought that was pretty legit."

A Black woman student made a point about BA's method and leadership, "He's going to give it to you straight, he's not going to sugar coat it and what he says is what he means. And I think he will be the one that basically uplifts the whole new generation of people because we done had the wool on our eyes for too long."

The controversy around Obama brought out questions of method and epistemology. A Black woman said to one of the staff that she thought the film was powerful and many more people needed to hear it. She talked about how she and all her friends had volunteered to work for Obama in his first campaign. Then she shook her head and said, "Well, I guess the truth is the truth," referring to BA's analysis of what Obama is about. Another older white woman said what surprised her the most was what BA said about Obama, "I'm an Obama person, except for the war on Afghanistan, I like Obama. I didn't know the other things about Obama that BA said. I have to rethink a lot of things now." An older Black man said, "I totally agreed about the person Obama, but BA went further to make you question your respect of the whole office of president and the whole system behind it."

People divided out sharply on religion, for example, an older white woman said she really liked "his atheism, that was such a strong start at the beginning about science and the degradation of the lord. That's RIGHT where I'm at!" While a young Black woman commented that when BA criticized religion and said there is no god, she stopped listening, she couldn't get past that.

Several women commented on what BA said about the oppression of women and rape, one commenting that he had "a very thorough feminist critique." A Native American activist was heard saying that he had never heard a non-native speak this way, especially the indictment of capitalism.

A Revolution Club member expressed how the power of BA and this film had impacted him: "After seeing the film I came away with a confidence that a revolution really could happen in a country like this. It really made me want to get out with more literature, be more straightforward with what Bob's talking about, and really help people understand what communism is all about…We need to introduce those the system has cast off to Bob. Because they struggle with things that the system do, and they just don't know what to do about it. And the party do. So I feel like if we can get it out to these people and help build them up, it could be the fighting force to stop these things. And we really need to get the Revolution Club off the ground, come together with a plan to help people develop the concept that we are trying to get them to understand. I think this is a great way to help the youth learn about the Party and Bob and I think it's a great thing to take it throughout the city, to the high schools, and get them to understand the science."

Many other people remarked that this is a film that needs to be heard by everyone, especially the youth. Many bought their own copy to watch themselves and show to others, 44 copies were sold. Many of the people who couldn't stay all the way to the end bought the DVD or expressed the desire to see the rest.

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