Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Strange Fruit

For once, there are no jokes to make, nothing clever to say. I went to the showing of the documentary Strange Fruit at Bluestockings (LES, 172 Allen St; F or V to 2nd Ave stop) today. The 2002 film, by director/producer Joel Katz, reveals the history of the heartbreaking anti-lynching anthem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx, and made famous by Billie Holiday. Katz explores Meeropol's character and talent as well as the social and political climate of the lynching era through interviews with Meeropol's adopted sons (children of Julis and Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953 as communist spies), Amiri and Amina Baraka, and Farrah Griffin, among others, and features performances of the song by Cassandra Wilson, Pete Seeger, and Lady Day herself. The song bears relevance today, as the film points out, not only in terms of our progress (or lack thereof--Jasper, Texas) in the eradication of racism, but in the parallel between yesterday's McCathyism and today's post-September 11 charges of anti-patriotism, slung at any individual who dares speak up and question the "shoot first and ask questions later, we're taking away your rights for your own good" direction in which the nation has been led. The film is deeply moving, short and powerful, like the song for which it is named. STRANGE FRUIT Southern trees bear a strange fruit Blood on the leaves and blood at the root Black body swinging in the southern breeze Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees Pastoral scene of the gallant south The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh And the sudden smell of burning flesh! Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop Here is a strange and bitter crop. -- Music and lyrics by Lewis Allan (Meeropol), copyright 1940 The documentary aired last year on PBS, and for those interested, is distributed by California Newsreel.


At 9/15/2004 09:18:00 AM, Blogger deborah said...

Thanks for sharing that Sid. When i first heard Strange Fruit... I had a haunting tingle up my spine. That usually happens when I listen to any of Billie Holiday's music - but this was a kind of tingle.

Us human(e) beings have selective memory... strange creature we are. Hmmmm.

I would love to see that film... wonder if it will do its rounds here.

Thanks once again. Peace.


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