Malcolm X (1992)
202 minutes, USA
In this over three hour epical biopic of Malcolm X, we follow Malcolm ‘Little’ from his early years trying to make a living as a hustler. His dad – a priest – is murdered by the Ku Klux Klan and after his mum is deemed clinically insane, he is raised by foster parents.
Nicknamed Detroit Red he gets involved into crime and ends up in prison as a young adult where he converts to Islam. Exiting, he changes his name into Malcolm X and starts working as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam. He eventually falls out with the group and founds his own organization: Muslim Mosque, Inc, growing out into one of the most powerful voices of history.
Producer Marvin Worth acquired the rights of The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley in 1967 but it took over 20 years, various script writers – amongst whom James Baldwin! – and different directors to eventually make it into a film. The hype towards it coming out became so big, that long before the cinema release, you could buy shirts and caps with an X on them.
The film was expected to be provocative, but when it finally came out in 1992, it turned out to give a nuanced and honest portrayal of Malcolm X. Spike Lee joked that he and Denzel Washington – who plays Malcolm X and was nominated for an Oscar – had their passports ready to flee to any country at anytime.
Lee only wanted to be interviewed by journalists of colour as they would be able to understand the film from a deeper perspective. And although most media respected his wishes, most of them had to admit they had no coloured journalist working with them.
Qasim Arif is a designer and artist who works under the moniker ILLM. His work is characterized by an experimentation of contemporary Arabic calligraphy and typography revolving around themes that are close to his heart: Islam and HipHop.
Through his older brother’s keen interest in Hip Hop music and the culture surrounding it (i.e. movies and fashion) he was introduced to Malcolm X, who became one of his role-models growing up as a Muslim in the West.