Tom Bradley gets his due

“Bridg­ing the Divide” doc­u­men­tary at the L.A. Film Fes­ti­val pro­files L.A.’s for­mer mayor.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Oliver Get­tell and Mark Olsen oliver.get­tell@la­times.com mark.olsen@la­times.com

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.

Los An­ge­les Times

L.A. MAYOR Tom Bradley was a fig­ure for change in the city and na­tion yet main­tained a low pro­file.

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