Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground’ on HBO Max, a Documentary That Reframes the Influential Work of Filmmaker Henry Hampton’s Award-Winning PBS Series

HBO Max documentary Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Floor is each a continuation and a brand new starting. Director Sophia Nahli Allison’s hour-long movie pays tribute to producer Henry Hampton’s 14-episode PBS documentary sequence Eyes on the Prize, a chronicle of the U.S. civil rights motion which aired between 1987 and 1990 — the primary six episodes of which just lately debuted on HBO Max. And by tying within the motion’s more moderen developments with the content material of Hampton’s work, Allison bridges the hole to a brand new Eyes on the Prize sequence, which is presently in growth, and certainly will supply highly effective tales of Black America to a brand new viewers.

The Gist: Henry Hampton’s archive is big. Neatly stacked movie cans fill rows and rows of cabinets that stretch on and on. It’s a monument to his 30-year profession as a filmmaker; he based the manufacturing firm Blackside, and produced many social justice documentaries, most notably Eyes on the Prize, which present activists cite as an inspiration: Patrisse Cullors, Phillip Agnew, Brittany Ferrell, Tarana Burke and plenty of extra testify to its affect.

Clips from Hampton’s archive mingle with footage from Eyes on the Prize and visible documentation of occasions that occurred for the reason that sequence debuted. Names like Rodney King, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Trayvon Martin are positioned alongside Medgar Evers and Emmett Until. Allison juxtaposes photographs from the Fifties and ’60s with these of the ’90s, the 2010s and 2020.

Amidst extra conventional documentary fodder, we see actors dancing in magical-realist performance-art items staged by Allison. She introduces giant conceptual concepts resembling “ancestral rage” and “energy,” and interviewees converse on them throughout the context of civil rights actions of the final 30 years. The director offers time to feminine and trans voices, the likes of which haven’t been historically represented. And at last, many activists reply the query: What precisely is “the prize”?

Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground (2021)
Photograph: HBO Max

What Motion pictures Will It Remind You Of?: Mentioning Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Floor in the identical breath as modern movies I Am Not Your Negro, MLK/FBI, Judas and the Black Messiah and One Night in Miami, in addition to Malcolm X and When We Were Kings is wholly warranted.

Efficiency Value Watching: There’s so many passionate, knowledgeable voices right here — I believe Hemphill and Ferrell stand out ever so barely because the commentators sharing essentially the most profound experiences and soundbites.

Memorable Dialogue: Hemphill: “Therapeutic is the work of getting different folks’s tales out of your system, different folks’s disgrace out of your physique.”

Intercourse and Pores and skin: None.

Our Take: HBO Max follows by means of properly on a terrific thought: As an alternative of simply dropping Eyes on the Prize within the content material menu and hoping folks discover it, the streamer produced Hallowed Floor as an introduction — or for older generations, a reintroduction — to the sequence, and an assertion of its cultural significance. It additionally capabilities as a thematic stopgap between the unique sequence and the (nonetheless principally below wraps) new one. And in that sense, it’s a promotional device, albeit one with nice artfulness, and one which resonates with the power of its message, as a result of only a few movies of this ilk supply the load of an archival interview with Rosa Parks, who reveals such a weariness in her eyes, it’s an indelibly highly effective second of uncooked reality.

If something, Hallowed Floor is a thesis assertion for the upcoming documentary, which has lots of floor to cowl: The motion of the ’90s, which some interviewees right here declare to be principally “misplaced”; protests towards police brutality from the final decade; the function of ladies and transgender folks in modern-era civil rights discussions. Allison grazes the floor of those developments with some broad assertions and the occasional robust anecdote from interviewees. She presents the content material with sufficient visible panache to make us hope she’ll deal with future installments.

Our Name: STREAM IT. Hallowed Floor reframes Eyes on the Prize for the twenty first century whereas additionally encouraging us to dig into the award-winning sequence. It stirs up some emotion and certainly provides some inspiration to the following era of activists — identical to Hampton did.

John Serba is a contract author and movie critic based mostly in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Learn extra of his work at or observe him on Twitter: @johnserba.

Stream Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground on HBO Max | Stream It or Skip It?


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