The Issue of Mr. O'Dell

35 min. Rami Katz, dist. by Cinema Guild, www.cinemaguild.com. 2018. DVD ISBN 9780781515870. $99.95; acad. libs. $310. Public performance; closed-captioned. HIST
Director Katz presents the story of Jack O'Dell, a largely little-known figure in the American civil rights movement. O'Dell (b. 1923) was an activist in the merchant marine union and a member of the American Communist party, joining both to fight racism and segregation. He later was questioned before Congress about his political activities. O'Dell became involved with Dr. Martin Luther King and played an important role in fundraising and voter registration. However, President John F. Kennedy asked King to dismiss O'Dell as the price for his support for civil rights. Fearful that accusations of collaboration with Communists might harm his work, King agreed. O'Dell tells his story in a series of low-key interviews shot mostly in stark black and white, supplemented by historic photos and newsreel footage. Toward the end of the film, O'Dell comments on the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement.
VERDICT Viewers with an interest in the historic and current civil rights movements will find this film engaging.
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