With Drawn Arms Review – A Thought-Provoking Documentary of Champions

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With Drawn Arms, from STARZ!, presents the story of Olympian Tommie Smith, the 1968 Gold Medal winner, who dared to shine a spotlight on the atrocities of the Negro people with a single raised fist on the winner's podium.

The documentary begins in Mexico City, 1968. The iconic image, indelible in history, of two USA African American Athletes, accepting their medals, the beginning of the national anthem, and in a single moment, the celebration turned to a silent and deafening protest. A single moment of silent protest heard around the world.

Of course, the purpose of the documentary is a project that a young conceptual artist, Glenn Kaino, from Los Angeles, was drawn to this moment in history. And wanted to work with Mr. Smith to somehow bring this image again into the national conversation.


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After a phone call, Glenn flew to meet Tommie Smith and his wife, in their Stone Mountain Georgia home which is how the story behind Tommie Smith Unfolds. After Kaino pitched his idea, the Smith's countered with their "must" list.

1968 will long be remembered as a year of unrest in the United States, troubles, Martin Luther King's Assassination, Bobby Kennedy's Assassination, unrest in Paris, Russia, Chicago, Watts, a boiling over of temperatures, as the world was convulsing.

Images from the civil rights movement, raw, vile treatment of humans who dared believe that equality was their "unalienable Rights" that they also were "endowed by their Creator."

And then there was Tommie Smith. Throughout the documentary he explains this moment, how it was important to say or do something to bring attention to the atrocities that were being seen daily, effecting little change, by the same people who would be watching the Olympic in their living rooms, at a time when race very rarely transcended color boundaries. He, at that moment was the embodiment of national pride, and expected to respond with proper decorum.

The fallout was swift. Brent Musburger, a name synonymous with Sports Reporting, called the pair, which included John Carlos, the Bronze medal winner, "a pair of black-skinned stormtroopers." An exaggerated remark through the lens of history and derogatory none-the-less.


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Moreover, the documentary follows Smith back home after the Olympics, where this medal winner, who dared shine a spotlight on blood spilling in the streets and the inhumane treatment of African Americans, was used as a marketing prop for a local car dealership where he washed cars to earn a living. Essentially, he was reduced to picking cotton again.

Throughout the documentary, they return to the conceptual project. The various stages of the project are layered over the stories of Tommie Smith's life. The protest, which was negated throughout the sports community also put him on the FBI militant blacklist. A harsh truth of absolute power.

Fortunately, at the time, Smith still had his speed. With that he secured a tryout for the Cincinnati Bengals. An injury sidelined him after one season. It was through this that a radical professor at Oberlin College in Ohio who recruited him to coach Track & Field.

The documentary doesn't stop here. One would think, okay, so he landed on his feet. Not so bad, comparatively. The assumption would be wrong. The documentary continues and we see a time when, what he wanted, was not within his grasp, and divorce, separation, loss, drove him to find solace in the bottle.


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Tommie Smith has seen the highs, and lived the lows, and now, With Drawn Arms, we see someone destined for greatness, challenged on every side, and now, even more has become a symbol for a new generation. '

With interviews from the late Congressman John Lewis, Jemele Hill, Megan Rapinoe, Colin Kaepernick, Glenn Kaino, Howard Cosell, and featuring former President Barack Obama.

With Arms Drawn, showcases the power and sorrow of the trailblazer. The finished project, initially on display at Atlanta's High Museum of Art, is presented. With Arms Drawn reverberates across the generations. A powerful, remarkable, and thought-provoking documentary. See it.


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Country - USA.

Run Time - 84minutes.

Language - English.

Director - Glenn Kaino, Afshin Shahidi.

Producers - Glenn Kaino, Afshin Shahidi, Sean M. Stuart, Glen Zipper.

Executive Producer - John Legend, Nelson George, Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius, Jesse Williams.

Cast - Tommie Smith, Congressman John Lewis, Glenn Kaino, Brent Musburger, Megan Rapinoe, Colin Kaepernick, Jemele Hill, and Former President Barack Obama.

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