Movie review of “Rosenwald”: Aviva Kempner’s marvelous new documentary spotlights philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, who created thousands of African-American schools and touched many lives. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Julian Bond, Maya Angelou, Marian Anderson and Ossie Davis are no longer with us, but their voices live on in a marvelous new documentary, “Rosenwald,” about the prolific, Chicago-based Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald.
Born in 1862, he was apparently inspired by the memory of Abraham Lincoln to create thousands of African-American schools — and a series of foundation grants that touched many lives. If the Ku Klux Klan burned down one of the schools, or a dozen, Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington would be so persistent about rebuilding them that Klansmen would go on to other mischief.
Rosenwald was also frugal, a charismatic salesman and a smart businessman who paved the way for Sears Roebuck and its dreamy catalogs — the Amazon of its day, according to filmmaker Aviva Kempner (“The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg”). Kempner has rounded up enough footage to make the point and then some.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Rosenwald,’ a documentary written and directed by Aviva Kempner. 90 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains photos of lynchings, Ku Klux Klan violence). Sundance Cinemas (21+).
Film clips from “Young Mr. Lincoln” and “The Music Man” are skillfully integrated and help to lighten up the tone of the piece.
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The interviews with Bond and Angelou have an up-to-the-minute quality, while the older segment about Anderson’s controversy-stirring concert in Washington, D.C., with Lincoln’s statue seeming to lend his approval, would be moving in almost any context.