As he retired from the University of Virginia after two decades of teaching, civil-rights leader Julian Bond sat in front of a local filmmaker's camera to reflect on black history and share his thoughts for the next generation of activists.
More than 50 people streamed into UVa's Nau Auditorium on Sunday afternoon for the Virginia Film Festival's screening of "Julian Bond: Reflections from the Civil Rights Movement," a 34-minute documentary by Argentine-born Eduardo Montes-Bradley, a writer-filmmaker who focuses on biographical portraits.
Bond, who retired in May after a 20-year career as a UVa professor, feels happy to have played a part in a movement that he feels paved the way for Barack Obama to become president of the United States.
"We knocked on doors and we opened the doors. And we fought the fights. And we suffered and encountered great loss and loss of life in order to make this happen," Bond says as the film comes to close. "It hasn't been easy, and it's not going to be easy to keep it going."
Through a combination of new interviews and archival footage, the film documents Bond's life story and the role he played in the push for equality through activism and politics.
Born into a family that valued education -- his father was a college president -- Bond was eventually elected to the Georgia House of Representatives and served as chairman of the NAACP.
Bond warned that there are still plenty of "undone things" in America. Public schools today are "almost as segregated" as they were 50 years ago, he said, but there will be people who step up to take on lingering challenges.
"Somebody's got to do it. And somebody will do it," Bond said. "Luckily, every time we've needed somebody or somebody(s) to rise up and say, 'Let's do this,' that person and persons have stepped forward. And they'll step forward again. I know they will."
Montes-Bradley, who filmed the documentary over the summer in Charlottesville and D.C., took questions from the audience after the screening.
The director said he usually doesn't go to film festivals, but because he moved to Charlottesville two years ago, he participated in the local festival because he's literally showing the film to his neighbors.
"It's not in the biblical sense, thy neighbor, blah blah blah," he said. "It's people who live across the street or next door."
In an interview, Montes-Bradley, 52, said he moved to Charlottesville to get his children a good education, to be close to the university and because it's a "lovely place to die."
"People say this is a great place to live. To me, it's a great place to die," he said. "I don't want to go anywhere else. This is OK. They can bury me here."
The filmmaker said Bond could not attend Sunday's screening because of a previous engagement, and that's a good thing.
"I would've been very uncomfortable with the real character here. Because the real Julian, which I admire and whose company I enjoy, is not necessarily the Julian that is there," Montes-Bradley said as he pointed to the screen. "... In a sense, this is the Julian Bond that I propose. So it's more like an essay."
However, Bond has seen the film, Montes-Bradley said. The filmmaker said the movie made Bond "very emotional."
"He said, 'Darn. I didn't expect this,'" Montes-Bradley said. "That was it. So I think that's a good thing."
Some in the audience said they appreciated that the film shows Bond as they know him, as a man teaching in Charlottesville, rather than a historical figure.
Crystal Whitaker, an event planner who took Bond's class on the history of the civil rights movement right before she graduated from UVa in 2001, went to watch the film about her one-time professor.
"He's still equally as mesmerizing and captivating," she said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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