DVD: Chisholm 72 – Unbought & Unbossed (2004)

July 3, 2015 | By


Chisholm72Film: Excellent

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: n/a

Label: 20th Century Fox

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  March 1, 2005

Genre:  Documentary / Politics / Women’s Movement

Synopsis: The first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, Shirley Chisholm, runs for President in 1972.

Special Features:  (none)




The divisive issues of 1972 – the Vietnam War, Nixon’s re-election, poverty in America’s lower income neighborhoods – were key factors in motivating Shirley Chisholm to take a chance at the top job in America, and though the dream was as real as her then-current membership in the largely all-male U.S. Senate, she also knew the odds at success were just plain lousy.

So why would a Congresswoman risk her stature and expose herself to vicious chauvinism and ridicule by her peers?

Shola Lynch’s documentary is a tightly crafted narrative that flips between a rich collection of surviving A and B camera news footage, and new interviews with many of the people who supported her bid, including those who swapped allegiance when it was clear she had no chance during a key Democratic convention. More important, however, are the perspectives that assemble a vivid portrait of a woman who wanted to carve a path for other women and visible minorities to earn careers not only in Congress, but also in local and state jurisdictions.

Chisholm’s personality is a feisty one, and her frank exchanges are partly responsible for attracting support from a percentage of registered Democrats, although critics found her vainglorious efforts robbed stronger candidates of the support they needed to fight and beat the Nixon campaign.

In a post-9/11 environment – and even more after the second war with Iraq – the divisions within the Democratic Party and disagreements with Republican policies are amazingly contemporary; it’s the documentary’s strongest quality, although Chisholm herself becomes a more compelling character when the loss of her key supporters puts an end to a dream that was so heartfelt.

20th Century Fox’s DVD is a bare bones release, and while a commentary track or straight Q&A with the director would have contributed needed insight into the project’s genesis, research, and editorial challenges, it’s still a marvelous work. The 1.78:1 ratio is very tight when standard 1.33:1 news footage is cropped, but Lynch and her editors get around the problem by employing a series of retro, split-screen sequences for contrast and colour, and a few of Chisholm’s archival speeches benefit from the multi-angle approach. The documentary also benefits from a bouncy music score, particularly Barry Eastmond’s funky theme for Chisholm.

Sometimes the most compelling and relevant issues reside in lesser-known historical figuress, and regardless of one’s politics, Chisholm ’72 is a lively, albeit bittersweet journey.



© 2005 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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