Union organizer Saul Wellman, who died last year at age 90, spent three-quarters of a century as ground soldier in the 20th century's prominent progressive movements. "Professional Revolutionary" fondly profiles the man who was a cranky mentor to generations of activists. Judith Montell's straightforward docu has too much of a PBS feel for theatrical exposure, but is apt for fest, pubcast and educational outlets.

Union organizer Saul Wellman, who died last year at age 90, spent three-quarters of a century as ground soldier in the 20th century’s prominent progressive movements. “Professional Revolutionary” fondly profiles the man who was a cranky mentor to generations of activists. Judith Montell’s straightforward docu has too much of a PBS feel for theatrical exposure, but is apt for fest, pubcast and educational outlets.

Born in Brooklyn to Russian Jewish emigre parents, Wellman came to his radicalism early: When he was 14, he heard Eugene V. Debs speak. Expelled from high school for attending a demonstration, Wellman joined the International Brigade to fight against Franco (pic ends with a 60th reunion of the group in Spain), was wounded when he served in the U.S. Army at the Battle of the Bulge, and returned home to become an American Communist Party organizer. McCarthy-era witchhunts got him jailed briefly. He left the party after Stalin’s crimes were revealed and refocused on pro-labor, anti-war and other causes. Colorful figure was a slightly haranguing but infinitely inspiring model to many idealistic youths. Banal score aside, pic’s assembly is pro if unimaginative.

Professional Revolutionary: The Life of Saul Wellman

Production

A Judith Montell production. Produced by Montell, Ronald Aronson. Executive producers, Aronson, Jim Jacobs. Directed by Judith Montell. Screenplay, Ronald Aronson, Ira Konigsberg.

Crew

Camera (color, video), Ashley James, Vicente Franco, Stephen Lighthill, Cathey DenHeeten Dubrish, Roger Sherman; editors, Max Salomon, Angela Reginato, Stacey Ross, Yasha Aginsky; music, Randy Craig. Reviewed at Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, Sept. 29, 2004. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) Running time: 65 MIN.
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