On May 13th, 2021, the city of Philadelphia for the first time commemorated the 1985 bombing of the M.O.V.E. headquarters and the Philadelphia neighborhood that surrounded it. Film Quarterly marked the 30th anniversary of that event in 2015 with Karen Redrobe’s analysis of Louis Massiah’s landmark film on that tragedy, including the contribution of Toni Cade Bambara to the film and its research. –B. Ruby Rich
The year was 1987. Ronald Reagan was midway through his second term. W. Wilson Goode was serving his inaugural term as the first Black mayor of the city of Philadelphia. Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It had been released a year earlier; the first episode of Eyes on the Prize, a groundbreaking television series about the history of the civil rights movement, had premiered in January, and at 10pm on February 24, The Bombing of Osage Avenue was broadcast nationally on PBS.
This documentary represents a unique and collectively generated response to the city of Philadelphia’s bombing of the home of the revolutionary organization MOVE in West Philadelphia on May 13, 1985, just over thirty years ago. Produced and directed by Louis Massiah, written and narrated by Toni Cade Bambara, the film refuses to present the police attack on the MOVE house as a singular, sensational event; nor does it attempt to provide a straightforward summary of what happened and who was to blame. Instead, this multivocal film explores the relationship between exceptional and everyday violence against African-Americans in Philadelphia with statements about the nature of community made in the wake of the bombing by ordinary West Philadelphians. Bambara’s dense and poetic voice-over weaves these elements together.
The article can be read in its entirety here.