'Deliberate Speed': Still Fighting the Fight
By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 14, 2004; Page H04
Taking its name from a phrase in the 1954 Supreme Court decision known as Brown v. Board of Education -- a civil rights watershed whose 50th anniversary is being celebrated this year -- the documentary by Peter Gilbert ("Hoop Dreams") is nothing if not ironic. In its examination of the history of the movement to outlaw school segregation and the "separate but equal" doctrine, it takes pungent notice of the fact that we are still fighting for things we thought we had won a half century ago. That's partly because the words "with all deliberate speed," while alluding to the pace of segregation's dismantling, were interpreted by many to mean, as NAACP Chairman Julian Bond says, "with any conceivable delay."
Although hampered in its presentation by an academic structure, with talking-head interviews by Vernon Jordan and others, "Deliberate" gets most of its juice from listening to groups of people who were students and activists in segregated Clarendon County, S.C., and Prince Edward County, Va., during the years leading up to the case. Interviews with today's teens, however, present more of a mixed message. While some note that there is still educational inequality, others take much of what their parents fought for for granted. This, the film hints, is not necessarily all bad.
While the film means to remind us how much work is left to be done, it also suggests that it might be a wonderful thing to arrive at a day when the struggles of the past are forgotten, not because they don't matter, but because the things we struggled for are there for all to share.
WITH ALL DELIBERATE SPEED (Unrated, 103 minutes) --Contains an image of a lynching and discussion of racism and racial violence. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company