Documentary On Malcolm X's European Trip before Assassination -- To Screen at African Film Festival

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Bethune shown with Howard Hughes in Tanzania.

At the 24th New York African Film Festival, Lebert "Sandy" Bethune, Jamaican filmmaker, poet, author and scholar, will spotlight Pan African expats' during the turbulent 1960s through his acclaimed milestone documentary Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, filmed during Malcolm's X’s trip to Europe shortly before his assassination and Jojolo, a portrait of a young Haitian fashion model and actress living in cosmopolitan Paris.
Both films will be seen at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street. Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom will be screened on Sunday May 7 at 4:15pm with Bethune holding a Q&A discussion immediately after. Jojolo will be shown at 6:15 pm with a Q&A period following the film.

In Bethune’s 1964 film Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, Malcolm X is seen at a time when his views were evolving following worldwide travel. It features interviews filmed during Malcolm X’s trip to Europe and Africa and is interspersed with scenes of African rebellion. Months after filming, Malcolm X would be assassinated in the United States.

“The film Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom first started as an informal interview at the Paris  home of the late French cartoonist, Bob Sine, an original founder of Charlie Hebdo magazine,” Bethune recalled. “Photographer John Taylor and I had been introduced to Brother Malcolm, at author Chester Himes’ apartment, after a public meeting in Paris on November 23, 1964. Malcolm had just returned from Africa where he had given a lecture to a group of African students.”

“Malcolm provided Carlos Moore, John Taylor, two other African-American students and I with the sit-down private interview we requested. The uniqueness of the film is that it took place in an informal, relaxed setting--with a comfortable Malcolm, attended by a small group of five young African Americans, and the security and hospitality of Sine, a former French Resistance Partisan,” he said. “The interview was recorded with a hand held 16mm camera. Malcolm’s only request in return for the interview was for us to take him around to some of the cafes and places in Paris where he might meet with African-American, artists, students and musicians. We thus became his guide, his de facto security team and informally the earliest unit of the Organization of Afro American Unity in Europe.”

The film covers a wide array of topics including the role of women in the Civil Rights struggle, the significance of China’s newly acquired Nuclear Bomb and the importance of the unity of Africa for the Black human rights struggle in the Diaspora. Weeks later, Bethune would attend Malcolm X’s historic “Union Debate on Human Rights” at Oxford University in England.

“That Brother Malcolm was assassinated only months later, rendered our interview with him, an unique retrospective in a modern pictorial medium, which now comprises the heart of Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom,” Bethune explained.
“In the film Jojolo, I wanted to portray a facet of Black female identity, seen through the eyes of a young Haitian woman working in Paris in 1966, as a Dior fashion model and actress,” explained Bethune.

In Paris during the early 1960s, Bethune was a significant presence in the younger Black expatriate intellectual circle. His friendships included James Baldwin, William Gardner- Smith, drummer Art Taylor, Dexter Gordon, Richard Wright’s widow, Helen,and their daughter, Julia. His poetry and fiction were first published by Presence Africaine. And he interacted with Francophone writers such as Aimee Cesaire, Leon Damas, Alioune Diop, all seminal advocates of “Negritude” -- a Pan Africanist stance for anti-colonial, anti-racist literature. For both his films Bethune attracted moral and material assistance from the legendary Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens and encouragement from Senegalese filmmaker Sembene Ousman.

One of his most treasured memories is Bethune’s friendship and mentorship with Langston Hughes, which spanned Paris, New York and Tanzania. Hughes even penned a poem in dedication to him.

Bethune’s literary work as a writer has been featured in groundbreaking Black Arts Movement literature. He has written short stories that were included in Langston Hughes’ anthology The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers; poetry in Black Fire, edited by Larry Neal and Amiri Baraka; and an essay on Malcolm X in Europe in John Henrik Clarke’s Malcolm X: The Man and His Times.

Lebert ”Sandy” Bethune, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, has taught at SUNY, and at  the University of The West Indies .He has studied at the University of Paris and holds a B.S. from NYU and a Masters in Anthropology & Education from Columbia University. He resides in New York City with his wife April, and their daughter Simone. He is currently preparing a new collection of his poetry for publication later this year.

For more information on 24th New York African Film Festival, contact

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