By: Mohsin Khan
UCI hosted an early screening of the upcoming documentary “The Long Road to the Hall of Fame” last Friday as part of the campus’ Black History Month events.
The documentary chronicles the life of Malik Farrakhan, formerly known as Tony King, a professional football player who later became a Black nationalist and is now heading up security for rap group Public Enemy.
The documentary spans from Farrakhan’s origins in Canton, Ohio, to his career as a player for the Buffalo Bills, to his subsequent fame in Hollywood. Farrakhan acted in many famous Blaxploitation films during the height of the genre’s popularity, such as “Sparkle” and “Gordon’s War.” He also appeared in “The Godfather.”
A panel discussion followed the documentary’s screening.
In addition to Farrakhan, who was at the event, the panel consisted of Reda Zine, the film’s director, Mark Levine, a UCI professor of Middle Eastern history, Chuck D, the founder of Public Enemy and Greg Tate, who is known for his writings about African American culture.
Zine said that a simple interview with Chuck D about Farrakhan’s involvement with Public Enemy ended up becoming the documentary, which took over six years to make, on Farrkhan’s entire life.
“I could have just met Malik one day on tour in Europe, and went on with my interview and report, but I had to go deeper,” said Zine, a Moroccan native.
“There’s a lot of issues and the same struggle in North Africa,” he said. “We didn’t have access to a lot of things, especially culturally. It’s like Black History Month, you can say you have a month for this, you’re okay. But you have to go deeper.”
Zine emphasized the urgent need to tell Farrakhan’s story while the former player is waiting to be instated in the NFL Hall of Fame.
“We need to understand the trials and tribulations we go through in our lives today, still laced with stereotypes,” said Chuck D. The Public Enemy frontman said that Farrakhan was able to connect his experiences, as well as tribulations, in the realms of sports, film and music through the different eras he’s lived through.
“It’s a special thing when you can get on a stage with a microphone, and talk about your occupation, and your life, especially as a Black man in America,” he said.
“I think this is about telling the stories that haven’t been told, or couldn’t be told before,” said Levine, who also contributed to the film. “It’s about writing the stories that no one else is willing to write. The thing that artists have to do is to tackle these stories, be it through music, or film, or journalism.”
Without proper representation in media, Levine said, minorities face the danger of being misrepresented as violent or by other harmful stereotypes.
“We can use these to push the conversations of racism and open a discussion so we can adapt new means and new strategies on how to tackle it,” Tate said.
Farrakhan was relatively reserved about his own life story, which he simply wanted to share.
“Hopefully you can pick up something from it, even if it’s a small fact,” he said. He closed the discussion by thanking his wife and everyone involved with the creation of the film.
The film received its world debut at the Pan African Film Festival in February, where it was as an official selection the Pan American Film Festival. Its set to see a public release in the near future.