The Smithsonian Channel hosted a special showing of “The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X”, at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park last Thursday, Feb. 22.
Lost Tapes is a series that shows speeches, newscasts and rarely seen archival footage of different historical moments and people. The show has featured Pearl Harbor, the LA Riots and more. On Feb. 26, the channel premiered an episode on Malcolm X, which shows tapes from as early as the 1950s. These tapes are not easy to come by and take close to a year to find and put together for the show.
“We look wherever we can,” said Tom Jennings, producer of “The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X”. “Some of the tapes come from archives at universities and some we were given from the garage of Malcom X’s dentist’s son. We have to do that 100 times over and then we have a film.”
“The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X” starts with a powerful and symbolic video of two reporters asking Malcolm what his biological last name is. The video shows Malcolm’s eloquence and intensity while also displaying the reporters focus on his last name rather than his cause. Throughout the episode, there are tapes of Malcolm interacting with his family, mentors and friends as well as some of the people he didn’t get along with so well. It also illustrates his ideals and growth leading to his assassination.
“I really appreciate CAAM for hosting things like this. I immediately RSVP’d,” said Monique Bacon of the Coalition of 100 Black Women. “I appreciate this because it showed another side to Malcolm X. There were people who demonized him, but I always knew in my heart and my spirit that he was a kind man and that he just wanted to do whatever he could do to liberate us.”
Producer Tom Jennings has worked on many films in this format, including “The Fidel Castro Tapes” and the “Assassination Tapes of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr”. His films do not feature any actors or narrators. Instead, they feature only videos from the time of the events and a few screens with readable information to give more context.
“This is hard to do, but there’s nothing better than going back to the authentic form,” said Jennings. “People who know the Malcolm X story know it really, really well and I wanted to show some familiar information, but also some new information with these tapes.”
The evening was a social event as well as a showing of The Lost Tapes. About an hour before the showing, there was a networking mixer at the museum where different politicians, lobbyist and community activists were able to share their ideas over a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres. After the showing, there was a panel discussion led by CBS2 News’ Pat Harvey. She spoke with one of the curators of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Damion Thomas, and the producer of “The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X”, Tom Jennings, about the film and Malcolm X’s contributions.
“I usually never come to downtown, but it was good to see the museum and talk with some of the politicians,” said Elka Worner, professor and documentary maker. “Also seeing this footage that I probably would’ve never seen in my life was great. It really gave a more well-rounded depiction of Malcolm X.”
“The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X” will have another showing on the Smithsonian Channel on March 2 at 10 p.m. but you can also catch it online at www.smithsonianchannel.com and on the Smithsonian Channel’s YouTube. For more information on upcoming events at the California African American Museum, visit caamuseum.org.