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Film Provides Rare Glimpse of the Real Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Many millions around the world are convinced they know imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from closely examining the "whodunit' contentions surrounding his contentious conviction for the December 9, 1981 slaying of a Philadelphia policeman.

However, few really know the "Who' of Mumia -- the individual behind the international image of a victim of injustice; the grandfather with a layered life beyond the simplistic characterizations of opponents bashing him as a murderous monster and supporters boasting him to mythical proportions.

The all too often missing "Who' of Mumia Abu-Jamal is what is truly unique about the focus of an engaging documentary movie -- "Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal" -- that opens in New York City on February 1 and Los Angeles on March 1.

"Long Distance" is scheduled for a series of commercial theater showings in February and early March in cities like Calgary, New Orleans, Princeton and Seattle.

This film presents the personality/person of Mumia before, during and after his arrest/conviction for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner unlike the pervious movies on Abu-Jamal that principally probed contours and contradictions of his conviction.

That missing "Who' is what sparked the interest of Stephen Vittoria, a respected LA based documentarian who wrote, directed and edited the "Long Distance" film.

"The story I found most remarkable is the story of a man who has produced an incredible body of revolutionary journalism and history under harsh conditions especially after incarceration," Vittoria said about his movie.

Vittoria's shown "Long Distance" at film festivals from California to Copenhagen and other selected screenings before the upcoming in-theater release, the first at Cinema Village in NYC.

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"Thirty plus years on Death Row, no computer or Internet access [yet] he's published seven books, thousands of written and recorded commentaries"For a filmmaker, that offers deep and resonant opportunities," Vittoria said.

"Like the title suggests, he is a long distance revolutionary, a man who never talks about his own case but instead takes on the responsibility of giving voice to the voiceless"a man who refuses to let the repressive apparatus of a racist state suffocate his soul."

This film tells a "Who' of Abu-Jamal , the content and context of his life inclusive of providing views points from acclaimed philosophers, historians, poets, writers, journalists and revolutionaries plus perspectives from his family.

Vittoria said the one interview in the film that "blows me away" is with Mumia's older sister Lydia Barashango, who died months after conducting the interview with Vittoria.

"She gave us an insight into Mumia's life at home as a kid, an up-and-coming journalist in his twenties, his pain and suffering in prison, his separation from his family and children and how much pain that causes him daily," Vittoria said.

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Full disclosure: I am one of the on-screen interviewees featured in "Long Distance Revolutionary."

Fuller disclosure: I have been interviewed for every major movie on Mumia made in the 21st Century, including the film released in 2007 produced by Academy Award winner Colin Firth and the 2010 work released by Philadelphia filmmaker Tigre Hill.

Hill's film simply regurgitated the prosecution's case of absolute guilt without even referencing the grievous flaws in the prosecution/police case detailed in the Firth and other films.

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Linn Washington is a weekly columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and This Can't Be Happening. Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and failings of the news media. He teaches multi-media urban (more...)

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