Spanning the eight decades between the end of the Civil War and the start of U.S. involvement in World War II, Sam Pollard’s well-made and sobering docu “Slavery by Another Name” illustrates the little-known fact that the involuntary servitude of African-Americans continued long past the Emancipation Proclamation. Based on the like-titled book by Douglas Blackmon, who appears among the many talking heads here, Pollard’s pic incorporates handsomely produced re-enactments that add only marginally to the film’s impact. Powerful if prosaic docu airs Feb. 13 on PBS and merits a long life on the educational circuit thereafter.Featuring interviews with the descendants of forced laborers and their white overlords, the film lays bare what scholar Adam Green calls a “fiendishly rational” system of violent oppression. Following the passage of the 13th Amendment and the attendant anxiety of former slave-owners in the Deep South, laws were designed to entrap and convict newly freed blacks and return them to servitude. Dramatic re-enactments, with actors in the roles of de facto slaves, are based on original documents discovered by Blackmon in the course of his Pulitzer-winning work. Tech credits are pro.
A TPT production, in association with Two Dollars and a Dream, with support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Coca-Cola Co., Georgia-Pacific, the KeyBank Foundation, Merck, the Corp. for Public Broadcasting. Produced by Sam Pollard. Executive producer, Catherine Allan. Co-executive producer, Douglas A. Blackmon. Co-producer, Joyce Vaughn. Directed by Sam Pollard. Written by Sheila Curran Bernard, from the book by Douglas A. Blackmon.
Camera (color/B&W, HD), Andrew Young; editor, Jason L. Pollard; music, Michael Bacon. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 26, 2012. Running time: 87 MIN.
Douglas A. Blackmon, Turron Kofi Alleyne, Sharon Malone, Sayyed Shabazz, Roxanne Roberts Hankins, Bernard Kinsey, Shane Guilbeau, Adam Green, David Levering Lewis, James Grossman, Mary Ellen Curtin, Gabe Cain, Tonya Groomes, Khalil Muhammad, Tyler Hollinger, Alesha Renee, Risa Goluboff, Raymond Spencer, Jaquay Arnold, Cristina Comer. Narrator: Laurence Fishburne.