By William Wolf


I have long felt that Mumia Abu-Jamal did not get a fair trial in the murder of a Philadelphia cop, of which he has asserted his innocence. I have contributed donations to help reverse his death sentence and to get him out of prison, and have followed the history of the case, as well as the figure he has become writing from behind prison walls and being a world-wide symbol of injustice. Therefore, it was with special interest that I viewed the new documentary “Mumia—Long Distance Revolutionary,” directed by Stephen Vittoria.

The film goes a long way toward covering the Mumia phenomenon, and it is a salute to the man behind the headlines. It is a highly political film that explores the prisoner’s writing, the reaction to his case and the views of many who are interviewed. “Mumia” is also a fascinating illustration of how someone who was a journalist and activist can be accused of a crime and go from that point to becoming a renowned figure whose plight mobilizes an army of supporters.

At the same time, he has become a hated target for those wanting to get even for the death of a cop, including the prosecution and the victim’s family.

“Mumia” is a vital documentary on a situation that has yet to be resolved, but has taken its place in judicial and popular history since the killing more than 30 years ago and is a textbook illustration of the battle for justice highlighted by Mumia’s symbolic role with his impassioned left-wing political voice that is being widely heard.

I have one particular criticism. While the film excels in the larger picture, it does not spend enough time on the disputed facts of the case itself. It is as if the director feels that everyone knows the facts. But many who see the film may not be so informed, and in addition to the polemical side, it would have been helpful to delve more deeply into the specifics of the trial itself and all that has surfaced since it took place. A First Run Features release. Reviewed February 1, 2013.


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