Out of the extreme political and social turmoil of 1967, collectives of young filmmakers emerged dedicated to presenting an alternative, radical view of events. Beginning in New York and San Francisco, these groups distributed documentaries about the liberation struggles in Vietnam and Latin America, as well as producing films about movements in the United States, such as the Black Panther Party and the student take-over at Columbia University. There was an explosive demand for the films and Newsreel collectives sprung up across America. At the end of 1968, Los Angeles Newsreel formed. Within two months, a committed core of 10-15 filmmakers, artists and activists were supplying documentaries and often leading discussions at community meetings in libraries, unions, schools and private homes.
In January of 1969, as the Newsreel collective took shape in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Black Panther Party suffered the assassination of two of its leaders: Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and John Huggins. Huggins had been a UCLA student and an early advocate for Los Angeles Newsreel. It wasn’t long before L.A. Newsreel , which included Jonathon Aurthur, Peter Belsito and Ron Abramson from the graduate film school at UCLA, decided to make its first film about the assassination and the role of the Panthers in those incendiary times. It was to be the only film that Los Angeles Newsreel undertook in its brief, two-year existence.
Abramson wrote a script called “Two Brothers.” That summer, Dennis Hicks and Mike Murphy, artists by training, began filming local Panther programs and interviewing its Minister of Education, Masai Hewitt, using Hicks’ trusty 16mm Arriflex and a borrowed Nagra for sound. They shot it on b/w negative and processed it at a discount at a local film lab sympathetic to their undertaking. They had barely finished a rough-cut on Hicks’ upright Moviola editing machine when the Los Angeles Police Department’s newly created SWAT team launched an assault on the L.A. Panther’s headquarters on December 8, 1969. Only four days earlier, the Chicago Police Department had raided the home of the chairman of the Chicago Black Panthers and killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. Under the unrelenting pressure of the federal government’s secret, illegal COINTELPRO (aka Counterintelligence Program) program, the Black Panther Party began to slowly crumple.
Hicks filmed the aftermath of the destruction of the L.A. Panther headquarters and gathered material from other documentaries. Then, after much debate and using a collectively revised script, he and Murphy reedited the original film. However, everyone agreed that the new version was too bold a cry for armed revolution to be an effective tool for community organizing; the rough-cut of the film was shelved. The film was recovered in 1997, renamed “Repression,” transferred to DVD and shown at Los Angeles Newsreel’s 20-year reunion. It has never been officially released though it has shown up on the Internet. “Repression,” along with its outtakes, has been archived in the USC Hugh M. Hefner film archive.
An intimate reflection of the years 1964-71, including the history of L.A. Newsreel and its relationship with the Los Angeles Panthers, can be found in Dennis Hicks’ Something’s Happening Here: A Memoir of the 60’s available at Dennis’ personal web site DENNISHICKS.NET
The following is a list of Hicks’ LA Newsreel film output. For his educational media output please click HERE
REPRESSION (1969) Dennis Hicks, Mike Murphy (12:30) B/W
The important L.A. Newsreel film about the Black Panthers that was rediscovered and written about by USC professor David James. Featured in the film is rare footage of many of the important West Coast Panthers such as Masai Hewitt, David Hilliard, Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, Eldridge Cleaver, John Huggins, and as well as footage of the aftermath of the LAPD raid on the Los Angeles Panther Headquarters. Musically the film begins with the opening jazz music by Ornette Coleman and later features the call to arms anthem, “The End of Silence” written and sung by Panther Elaine Brown. The film went through several changes. This surviving version was never finished and exists as a double system 16mm work print and edited magnetic soundtrack just as it was left back in 1969. The archive recently cleaned and re-scanned the original work print and soundtrack for the version below
From its beginning, the Black Panther Party carefully controlled its militant image as evidenced by their iconic black leather jackets and berets. They also controlled their image through their posters and other graphics as well as through the songs and chants they used at rallies. The most well-known call and response was “Free Huey—Off the Pig!” which began as a call to free their founder and Minister of Defense, Huey P. Newton, from jail. Other examples are found in this first group of outtakes, which we assume are songs sung by Panther women. There was no information as to song titles, who was singing or who recorded them.
COMPLETE LIBERATION (Free Huey) LISTEN
NO MORE PIGS LISTEN
NO MORE PIGS (alt take) LISTEN
PANTHER POWER LISTEN
PANTHER POWER (alt take) LISTEN
Bobby Seale Interview (35 min) LISTEN
Masai Hewitt Interview (13 min) LISTEN – This is the “cultural nationalism” part of a longer interview (some of which appears in the final film) which has since been lost. When the elements from REPRESSION were found some of the most crucial parts such as some of the footage post LAPD raid of headquarters and the full Masai Hewitt interview were not among the recovered reels. Someday we would love to find out what happened to them.
Black Lima Beans Tape (8 min) LISTEN One of my favorite tapes in the collection. Seemingly recorded to capture some ambient factory sound, it accidentally captures the conversation between 2 unidentified males. One a worker and the other from Newsreel. The worker discusses how he is high at the moment and writes songs on the level of Richie Havens and Donovan and brags about how great his apartment is, while the unidentified Newsreel person quietly says he works with Newsreel and is trying to document things that people don’t necessarily know about….
UFAF Preacherman Tape (8 min) LISTEN The Black Panthers in Chicago led by Fred Hampton were part of a group fighting for similar civil rights purposes called the Rainbow Coalition. Another member of this coalition William “Preacherman” Fesperman and the Young Patriots. This was an otherwise unlabeled tape featuring a speech by Preacherman.
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – 32708B 15:27
footage from a UCLA political rally on March 16, 1969 in Meyerhoff Park that shows Jerry Rubin speaking, brief clip of Phil Ochs, Black Panther Paul Musette ; Black Panther Shermont Banks ; Phil Ochs again then negative ends ; different footage from a different event looks like Country Joe and Barry “The Fish” Melton ; Minister ; Charles Garry (Panther attorney) ; Bobby Seale focus goes soft ; Tom Hayden at end he hold up a rifle ; someone who looks like Eldridge Cleaver? ; Masai Hewit ; (USC #I063029)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – S10 + – 26:34
Watts Summer Festival after Elaine Brown had denounced it ; with Watts writers workshop float; jordan high school poster ; housing authority marching young girls ; kids sitting on street while parade goes by ; reel ends – house of naturals car ; black police officer ; cops by parked cars ; –AUGUST 9, 1969 NEWSREEL tag – BPP 2nd Stills – KKK ; ? ; man with mau mau helmet ; ? ; July 3, 1969 Paper ;Papa Doc ; Ron Karenga ; Karenga and US ; Reagan ; Nixon ; Police fighting black man ; white tenants banner ; kkk lynching ; American Way billboard ; Roblee ad ; Jim Simpson billboard ; rebels with guns ; hangings ; black man with police ; black people surrounding car ; black man on ground hit by police ; factory ; Malcolm X ; Bill Logan ad ; African slaves ; slave auction ; reel ends – back to parade ; House of Naturals ; Pasadena Soul Masterettes ; PAX truck ; LA Police Jr Band ; Oscar Noel Bryant Police car ; Black cops marching ; black man in jumpsuit walking in front of cops ; walking around street fair ; girls holding up fists ; Hand on camera ; streetview of Panther headquarters members listening to records ; front of Campbell hall UCLA ; (USC #I063028)
REPRESSION SF NEWSREEL WORKPRINT FOOTAGE (21:35)
Police officer by car ; Huey Newton prison interview footage ; cop on bike ; cop cars in neighborhood ; Free Huey protest ; cops by Black Panther bus ; Free Huey campus protest ; kids on bicycle with Free Huey sign – end reel ; Flared reel – driving through streets ; OAKLAND, CA – BOBBY HUTTON FUNERAL 1968 – people sitting on ground listening to speakers ; Kathleen Cleaver on stage ; crowd shots ; side stage w/ Panther and Marlon Brando ; random crowd shots ; guy carrying huey newton posters ; guy holding can of gasoline ; inside Panther headquarters ; woman at desk on phone ; in front of Panther office ; wrapping fish and vegetables ; police car and white volkswagon ; crowd of onlookers ; more from Hutton funeral from different camera? ; Panther speaking ; possible shot panther stepping down from stage ; Kathleen Cleaver ; Eldridge Cleaver? ; stage with Marlon Brando ; Panther speaking ; Panthers around stage ; Ch 7 interviewing Brando ; Alameda Court House exterior ; driving through streets ; —SF NEWSREEL MEMBERS? ; Free Huey protest at Court House ; Bobby Seale inside Panther offices w/ minister ; wrapping fish in front of office ; drinking coke in office ; same cop from beginning ; cops with volkswagon ; Panthers across the street ; Eldridge Cleaver? ; driving through streets ; (USC #I063019)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – AFTER LAPD RAID (11:49)
After the LAPD Raid on 2 x Black Panther offices ; bullet ridden buildings and windows ; footage shot off TV ; cops in the streets (USC #I063006)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – BP22006 (8:31)
SDS Forum ; UCLA classroom Feb 14, 1969 w/ Elaine Brown and white bearded guy, Masai Hewit ; Bob Nieman (NUC) , Earl Ofari (TWLF) ; Jim Stehn (SDS); Young Panther in doorway ; various organizations posters on wall including Free Huey poster ; (USC #I063023)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – S01 – 112 feet (3:15)
Possibly December 8, 1969 LAPD raid of 2 Black Panther locations Los Angeles, People on street corner with cops blocking street; cops talking to people ; police making an arrest ; (USC #I063009)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE RAID #1- S23R/S38 -219 feet (6:04)
December , 1969 LAPD raid of 2 Black Panther locations Los Angeles, White helmet cops walking down the street ; Streets blocked off, people watching ; Helicopter overhead ; cops in front of neighborhood houses ; people yelling at the police ; large group of people behind police car ; people and police walking down the street ; (USC #I063024)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – S25 -857 feet (23:55)
June 3, 1969 Interview with family at 3833 ? street ; standard oil ; black congress sign ; kids walking with pigeon ; pan african thrift store ; car wash ; kids on street ; street signs and billboards ; small protest in park ; police car (USC #I063027)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE BREAKFAST- S28R -446 feet (13:28)
December 24, 1969 ; Black Panther Breakfast Program ; Map ; (USC #I063011)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – S34 – 51 feet (1:11)
Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and Eldridge Cleaver talking ; (USC #I063021)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE BPP RALLY – S36 – 197 feet (5:22)
May 4, 1969 Los Angeles Federal Courthouse. One of 20 nationwide FREE HUEY protests ; Elaine Brown speaking at event ; cops on street (USC #I063012)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – S37 – 351 feet (9:35)
June 13, 1969 Black Congress ; Sons of Watts ; Gee Gee’s Afro Asian Imported Gifts ; Driving through neighborhoods ; Panther Power graffitti (USC #I063010)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – S40 – 110 feet (3:10)
August 1969 crime aftermath ; Black Bank ; police rolling body out to ambulance ; black police officer directing traffic ; (USC #I063007)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – S76 – 315 feet (8:45)
June 1969 Street ; Haitian Art Week ; driving around neighborhood ; broken windows ; Police Week ; (USC #I063013)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – BLACK PANTHERS SOUTH PARK – 275 feet (6:52)
Los Angeles City College ; David Hilliard ? Speaking ; ? Speaker ; Elaine Brown and previous Panther Speaking ; Panther who looks like Bobby Rush but isn’t ; Different Speaker ; Female speaker (USC #I063022)
REPRESSION NEGATIVE – HILLIARD – 275 feet (6:52)
MOS Footage of Black Panther David Hilliard giving a speech; (USC #I063005)