Revolution #223, January 23, 2011

Film Showing Caps Grand Opening Weekend of Revolution Books, L.A.

It was Sunday night, and the Grand Opening weekend for Revolution Books/Libros Revolución at its new location in East Hollywood was coming to a close. The store was filled to overflowing as nearly 100 people from many different parts of L.A., and many different sections of society and walks of life, were crowded in. There was electricity in the air that you could feel in the noisy conversations going on as many of the people were meeting the bookstore—and this revolution—for the first time.

They had come to the store for a reception after seeing the remarkable film about the immigrant experience—Alambrista! (tightrope walker)—held at nearby Barnsdall Art Park as a fundraiser for the bookstore. After the film the audience had the opportunity to hear filmmaker Robert M. Young in conversation with Michael Slate, writer for Revolution newspaper and host of the Michael Slate Show on KPFK, and to ask questions of their own. The event, a fundraiser for the bookstore, drew 180 people, and afterwards people went to the store for the reception with the filmmaker.

Alambrista! and Its Remarkable Creator

Alambrista! first aired in 1977 and the next year it won the Camera d'Or award at Cannes and the best feature film award at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain. In the late 1990s, a group of academics in Chicano and American studies worked with Robert Young to re-release the film on DVD, together with a book of essays, Alambrista and the U.S.-Mexico Border. Alambrista! is a movie that brings the humanity of undocumented Mexican immigrants to the screen.

Young has said that his goal in making Alambrista! was "to humanize the statistics that I had read about in the papers, of the people who cross the border, and the people didn't know who they really were. ... Here Roberto [the main character] was in Mexico, he actually came from a valley where he did have a life, and it was fertile but economically he needed something more. And what I wanted to express was that I don't think that you can live with your stomach in one place, and your heart in another place."

He's also said about the film: "I wanted to honor these kinds of people. There was something powerful to me in the idea that in California, particularly where there are hardly any family farms but the people who pass through the fields and pick. And the wind... like the ballad... about the dust... there's not even a footprint left of them. They spend their lives picking the things that are growing for us, and they don't have a chance to grow themselves."

One of the contributors to Alambrista and the U.S.-Mexico Border wrote: "Young has a genius for understanding people different from himself, perhaps because in a fundamental way he does not see other people as strangers to himself. His genius, and the genius of Alambrista!, is to make us see things the same way."

Alambrista! is part of the rich movie-making history of Robert M. Young that spans more than 50 years: filming and directing award-winning documentaries; writing, producing, directing, and filming a wide array of fictional movies, but especially pursuing stories that delve into some of the most concentrated social contradictions of society. He emphasized that his method is not to tell audiences what to think, but to bring them into situations and allow them to draw their own conclusions. These qualities in Robert M. Young and his filmmaking have led to powerful documentaries such as The Inferno, about life in the slums of Palermo, Sicily, and the Emmy-winning Eskimo: Fight for Life, as well as feature films like The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, and the unforgettable 1986 movie Extremities, with Farrah Fawcett and Alfre Woodard, about a woman who turns the tables on a rapist. His 1964 film Nothing But a Man, about a Black railroad worker who leaves the rails and struggles to live a life with dignity up against penetrating racism and oppression, is said to have been Malcolm X's favorite movie.

Anticipation for the Benefit Screening Spreads

Word of the benefit and the bookstore Grand Opening spread in lots of different ways. The ad for it in the LA Weekly reached a large audience; and a local culture/arts writer did an article on the store opening and the fundraising event on—a cultural web 'zine that specializes in significant events in the neighborhood and is read by a lot of people involved in the film industry on all levels.

Pacifica radio station KPFK was a media sponsor and promoted it. The co-sponsors of the film showing, Readymade Film Fest, also built for the event through their own networks, as did many individual people connected to various film, music, and art scenes. And "palm cards" and posters went out and up in different parts of the city, at UCLA and other colleges and high school campuses, at various events, and in a number of neighborhoods in L.A.

On the Friday before the Sunday screening, Slate interviewed Robert Young on KPFK. The interview was heard by many who know of and greatly admire the filmmaker and this film, and who were curious to learn more about the bookstore. As soon as the radio show ended, the bookstore began receiving calls and inquiries from people wanting to reserve tickets, and find out where the new store was located. The filmmaker said friends called him—including a number of them in the film industry—within an hour of the airing of the show, all wanting to know more about the event and how they could find out about this bookstore.

Reception at Revolution Books

At the Sunday evening reception after the event at Barnsdall, many people were encountering Revolution Books, and this revolution and its leader, Bob Avakian, for the first time—and the great majority were struck by how different this revolution was from their preconceived notions. People would walk through the door and be drawn to the displays and the shelves. The breadth of books the store is already able to offer, with the promise of more titles and authors to come as more funds are raised, gave a sense of the value Revolution Books places on critical thinking, ferment, and ideological and political contestation and engagement, and the many different channels through which revolutionary discovery can flow. It introduced them to the campaign launched by the Revolutionary Communist Party in the Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," and to Revolution newspaper. And it gave substance to the importance of the work and leadership of Bob Avakian.

Nearly everyone commented on the diversity of those who were there, making possible unique conversations between progressive and radically-minded people from all kinds of realms: filmmakers, artists and musicians, professors from several different campuses and fields of study; college and high school students; and revolutionary-minded immigrants, many from south of the border, from the Middle East, and elsewhere.

As the planned one-hour reception went into its third hour, the store continued to be alive with discussion and debate, including questions like how revolution could be made in a country stamped with the seal of parasitism/living off the backs of the world's peoples, the difference between communism and anarchism or reformism; and alongside these there were discussions about revolution, whether it is necessary, whether it is possible... or even desirable; and how could you keep it from being defeated or betrayed?... with the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) in the mix. Robert Young was signing the Alambrista! books as people continued to express how much they appreciated the film and the whole afternoon and evening; then pausing to respond to questions posed to him by Spanish-speaking immigrants and others about the movie, and about his plans for future projects; while he continued to share other episodes in his career.

This benefit capped a successful Grand Opening weekend, and it gave a glimpse of the potential for the movement for revolution to break out onto a societal scale.

Relocated... Revitalized... Revolution Books, L.A.

Revolution Books/Libros Revolución in Los Angeles ushered in the new year by celebrating the Grand Opening of its bookstore at a new location on Hollywood Boulevard.

Revolution Books is a place, a bookstore, where people meet the revolution. Where people come into the bookstore from all over the world and from different corners of this society to find the books and deep engagement with each other about the possibility of a radically different way the world could be.

Scientific and poetic, wrangling and visionary—Revolution Books is alive with a defiant spirit that refuses to accept that the horrors of today's world have to be. At the heart of Revolution Books is the cutting-edge work of Bob Avakian, whose new synthesis of communism envisions a radically new society that is overcoming all of the oppression of the current world while giving great scope to intellectual work, ferment, and dissent as integral to the complete emancipation of humanity.

It matters that there is an intellectual center for building a movement for revolution accessible to every section of society. A movement that is engaging, learning from, and struggling with a wide array of divergent viewpoints—all searching for a fundamental solution to the political, ideological, and ecological disasters that the people of the planet face today.

The Grand Opening of Revolution Books/Libros Revolución, L.A. in its new location holds great promise. But none of this can happen without a broad base of support, both financial and in other ways, coming forward now. By the end of the bookstore's Grand Opening weekend many people had volunteered to work with the bookstore in different ways; and progress was made in meeting the store's goal of 100 "Friends of Revolution Books" committed to be monthly financial sustainers of the store. For this potential to be realized, all those who are coming to see that this movement for revolution is urgently needed, and possible, must also realize that its success depends on you and what you do.

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