The civil rights struggle holds thousands of stories, and this
clear-eyed documentary focuses on St. Augustine, Florida, which in 1963
and ’64 found itself at the center of this great social upheaval. Much
of the movie centers around the business establishment primarily
targeted in the protest, the Monson Motor Lodge, and embittered, now 81-year-old owner
James Brock (below right), makes for an interesting interview subject, along
with former UN ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and other former field organizers of the demonstrations.
Directed by Jeremy Dean, Dare Not Walk Alone successfully avoids the trappings of many well-meaning civil rights docs that serve only as grief mops for white liberal guilt. This movie comes by its solicited emotions honestly, simply, plaintively. Eschewing overly explicative narration, it isn’t afraid to trade in silences, or let 8mm or newsreel footage unfold under a trip-hop spiritual beat. The effect is often mesmerizing, and certainly heartrending; it’s the grandness of history writ in personal strokes.
Still, there are a few small bumps; a little more than halfway into its running time, the film makes a hairpin, and not entirely convincing, turn into the present day, tying the story of the allure of hip-hop’s upward social mobility with current-day St. Augustine residents, where over a quarter of the African-American population lives in poverty. It’s not so much a stretch to try to tie together the ugly history of racial divide with a gaping socioeconomic chasm that still exists, it’s just that it’s not foreshadowed or particularly smoothly interwoven here. One feels like they’ve been jerked out of one movie and put into another one. That whiplash is almost forgotten and entirely forgiven, however, with moving closing footage of a church reconciliation ceremony for African-American parishioners turned away from shared worship 40 years earlier. For more information on the film, click here. (Indican Pictures, unrated, 71 minutes)