In 2012, director Robin Fryday updated viewers on what had happened since filming of The Barber of Birmingham ended.
What kind of response has this film had from younger audiences who have just reached or are close to reaching voting age. Have you had any screenings with youth or students?
Fryday: We have had several screenings with high school and college students. There is one in particular which I’d like to share with you.
We screened the film in Birmingham, Alabama for 600 high school students from many different schools. We also had 20 of the original Foot Soldiers from the Movement there to speak about the roles that they played during the Movement.
After the screening of the film and the discussion with the Foot Soldiers, we had tables set up with voter registration forms. It was unbelievable to see the students RUN to the tables to fill out their voter registration forms. The students told me that before seeing this film they did not know of the sacrifices that were made so that they could vote. They said they probably would not have voted had they not seen this film.
This was a great moment for me as a filmmaker because this is exactly what Gail and I had hoped when we decided to make this film.
Was Mr. Armstrong able to see the inauguration of President Obama?
Fryday: Unfortunately, Mr. Armstrong did not make it to the inauguration. He was supposed to be on the bus with 40 other foot soldiers, and Gail and I were with our film team ready to record that moment. Gail and I knew how cold it was in Washington, D.C., during that time so we went shopping for clothes for Mr. Armstrong to prepare for the weather.
The morning that the bus was leaving for the inauguration we went by to check on Mr. Armstrong and bring him his new clothes. We found him in congestive heart failure. Gail and I rushed him to the hospital where he stayed for 10 days. I was asked to go in and help Mr. Armstrong undress. He had on many layers of clothing because he was preparing to go to D.C. We removed his many shirts, and his trousers. and when I got to his shoes he told me I couldn’t remove them. When I asked why he said, “Because if they call me to march I have to be ready.”
This summed up Mr. Armstrong….always ready to march for justice.
What was your reaction to being nominated for the Academy Award?
Fryday: Shock! Disbelief!
As a first time filmmaker this was something I had never even imagined. It was such a great honor for the film to be recognized in this way. There was no better way to honor Mr. Armstrong and Gail Dolgin. It was bittersweet being at the Academy Awards without them there to celebrate, but I know they were there in spirit. Gail’s daughter Amelia and her son-in-law Ben were able to attend with me, along with my family and some of our film crew. It was great celebrating with those who supported me throughout the making of this film. As great an honor as it was to be nominated for an Academy Award, there’s still so much work to be done with the film to fulfill the goals Gail and I had for it.