Mike Africa Jr. & Tommy Oliver Explain Why ’40 Years A Prisoner’ Resonates With BLM Today
Mike Africa Jr. and Tommy Oliver explained why their new film 40 Years A Prisoner is still relevant today in a new uInterview.
The documentary follows Africa Jr.’s more than 25-year-long fight to exonerate his parents after they were arrested in a police raid in 1978 on the activists organization MOVE’s home in Philadelphia. Police arrested and charged nine people for the death of a police officer, who MOVE members claimed was killed by an accidental shot from his fellow officers.
“MOVE organization was founded by John Africa, a black man from Philadelphia,” Africa Jr. described. “The mission of the organization is to encourage people to protect life: people, animals and the environment.” The organization protested against unsafe homes for the elderly, police brutality, mistreatment of animals, and pollution causing factories, according to Africa.
“As a result of these protests, we were targeted by the police and those police attacks led to what happened on August 8, when the police raided our house and arrested nine members of the house, including my parents and charged them with the murder of a cop that happened that day,” said Africa Jr..
“The story being more relevant today is kind of a weird thing,” writer-director-producer Oliver explained. “Because this story was just as relevant in 1981, 1992, 2010, 2017 and, unless something changes radically, it will be just as relevant 20 years from today.”
“So, police brutality isn’t getting worse in this country it’s getting reported,” Oliver added. “And so, for me it was less about trying to capture any of those things because these are things that have always been important to us. And so, black lives didn’t start mattering to me or people around me because the media started to care about it, they’ve always mattered.”
Oliver explained that the movie was focused on the story of Africa Jr., and his “scar tissue that comes from the sort of events that August 8 are.”
“In this case, it was very much about Mike and a guy without a shred of bitterness about him despite all of what happened,” he said. “He just wanted his parents home. He wanted his family home and I wanted to be a part of showcasing that journey.”
The documentary is available for viewing on HBO and HBO Max. Check out the trailer below.