Tom Bradley gets his due
“Bridging the Divide” documentary at the L.A. Film Festival profiles L.A.’s former mayor.
During his 20-year mayorship of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley was known for his quiet resolve, reflected in one of his nicknames: “the Sphinx of City Hall.”
It’s perhaps oddly fitting, then, that Bradley’s remarkable story — that of a grandson of slaves who became the first African American mayor of Los Angeles and presided over the rapidly changing metropolis for five terms — is not better known. The first documentary about him, the one-hour “Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race,” made its world premiere over the weekend at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Directed by Lyn Goldfarb, who cowrote and co- produced with Alison Sotomayor, “Bridging the Divide” chronicles Bradley’s rise from sharecropper’s son to LAPD officer to city councilman to mayor. Connecting his legacy to the present day, the film makes the case that Bradley, in gathering broad support from blacks, Jews, Latinos, Asian Americans and other groups, paved the way for Barack Obama.
“Tom Bradley laid the foundation for the kind of coalition politics that allowed President Obama to be elected,” Goldfarb said by phone. “When he won [the mayoral election] in 1973, his victory enabled other candidates or potential candidates from around the country to see that, yes, it can be done.”
The documentary also looks at Bradley’s long and complicated relationship with the LAPD. Though he served 21 years on the force, Bradley was often frustrated — as an officer and later as a politician — by a department that “operated as an autonomous, almost para- military force,” in Goldfarb’s words.
When the filmmakers began the project in 2008, “We thought that the link to this story, the resonance, would be the first black president and building coalitions,” Goldfarb said.
Seven years later, amid racially charged protests against alleged police brutality in places like New York, Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., the film’s explora- tion of Bradley’s struggles to bring civilian control and reform to the LAPD have come to the fore.
“The film kind of grew into the times, but all the elements were there,” Goldfarb said. “We always felt that the story of Tom Bradley was a story about the police.”
“Bridging the Divide” will screen again at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers and subjects interviewed for the film. ‘Too Late’ director focused on timing
Writer-director Dennis Hauck’s debut feature, the suspenseful detective story “Too Late,” also had its work premiere at the L.A. Film Festival.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater hosted a screening Thursday, partly so the movie, an entry in the festival’s U.S. fiction competition, could be screened in a 35millimeter film print. (A follow-up screening at the festival’s downtown L.A. Live venue will be a digital projection.)
In the film, set and shot in Los Angeles, John Hawkes plays a private investigator who receives a call from a young woman and then spends the rest of the story putting together what happened to her. The style of the film becomes a vital part of its storytelling, as each of its five scenes is told in a single long, uninterrupted take.
As a result, each scene comes to feel like a self-contained play that simultaneously fits into the fabric of the larger story, taking in a hillside park, a crooked businessman’s home, a strip club and bar, a drive-in movie theater and a hotel.
With its vintage-inflected aesthetics and unusual storytelling, the decision to shoot the movie using 35millimeter film was a natural choice for Hauck.
“As you probably noticed, the whole thing was designed around the idea of, ‘Let’s have five scenes, and they’ll each be about as long as a roll of film will last,’ ” Hauck said in a Q&A after the screening. “So from the very beginning, I didn’t even know really what the movie was going to be about, I just said I can write about anything I want, but it can only be five scenes, 20 minutes.”
The film screens again at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live.
L.A. MAYOR Tom Bradley was a figure for change in the city and nation yet maintained a low profile.