John Maggio’s “A Alternative of Weapons: Impressed by Gordon Parks” shares a title with the good photographer’s 1966 autobiography, which voiced his want for a digital camera that was mightier than the sword. Parks was born in 1912 because the final of 15 kids on the household farm in Kansas. He went on to inform defining chapters in America’s story by the institution pages of Life journal, with a nuanced constancy to Black expertise.
Maggio’s documentary strikes by Parks’s wealthy photograph essays on a Harlem gang chief, the segregated South, Muhammad Ali and a boy in a Rio de Janeiro favela, in addition to daring early work on Ella Watson, a janitor on the Farm Safety Administration. A line is drawn from Parks’s legacy to the cultural narratives being charted by the present photographers Devin Allen and LaToya Ruby Frazier.
This helps keep away from a portrayal of Park — an avuncular sage in sweater and pipe — as a stand-alone determine. He additionally made historical past as the primary Black artist to supply and direct a serious Hollywood movie (“The Studying Tree,” from his personal e-book), directed a pop-culture monument in “Shaft,” composed music and wrote a number of books. Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay and curatorial critics sound worthwhile however comparable factors about his empathy and standpoint.
Maybe nobody documentary can do justice to Parks. However “Alternative of Weapons” finally ends up streamlining his complexity, and its wind-down seems to be previous his different audiovisual output (screening quickly in a retrospective at Anthology Movie Archives). Nonetheless, as Parks as soon as mentioned, “I think about this my world,” and we’re all nonetheless residing in it.
A Alternative of Weapons: Impressed by Gordon Parks
Not rated. Working time: 1 hour 29 minutes. Watch on HBO Max.