Public Enemy

Jens Meurer

France/Germany 1999, 90min.

Bobby Seale rules in Public Enemy. Jens Meurer’s thematically fascinating but stylistically undistinguished doc is a walk down Memory Lane with four former Black Panthers who, each in their own way, still practice the commitment so emblematic of the old days of the counterculture.

Bobby Seale

“Stick’em up, motherfucker, this is a hold-up. We come for what’s ours”, says Seale when the co-founder of the Black Panther Movement – and the only living grandfather of the Black Revolution – reenacts one of his characteristic actions from the late sixties. A former “hellraiser against the racist pig power system,” Seale’s features have softened over the years, but his stance certainly hasn’t. Better living conditions for the “Afro-American” community is still high on his agenda, and Seale doesn’t seem to have tired of spreading the word to whoever wants to lend an ear. According to Meurer, the FBI has done its best to keep Seale out of a job, but the tireless man never panicked. Instead he went on and published a BBQ cookbook.

Jamal Joseph

The other main characters in Public Enemy are Jamal Joseph, Nile Rodgers and the most famous ‘femme’ Panther after Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver. Their youthful political activism hasn’t turned into a livelihood for any of the now middle-aged subjects. Closest comes Kathleen Cleaver, who works as a law professor and remains actively committed to the cause. Rodgers – the least interesting of the lot – has made a fortune in the music business: as an artist, but also producing big names such as David Bowie, Rolling Stones and Madonna. He currently works in a swimming pool with built-in waves!

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