BH Interview: 'Runaway Slave's' C.L. Bryant Pulls No Punches Decrying Modern Political Plantation
Rev. C.L. Bryant isn’t about to apologize for comparing the plight of black conservatives to the "Peculiar Institution" in his new documentary "Runaway Slave."
“There had to be something shocking enough to bring them around to seeing it,” Bryant says of the film's intended audience, black liberals unwilling to consider another ideological viewpoint.
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“Runaway Slave,” which recently had its sold out world premiere Jan. 13 at the Landmark Regent Theater in Los Angeles, features Bryant’s attempts to free his fellow black Americans from the shackles of liberalism. The film finds Bryant trying to win over stubborn converts, deploring how black conservatives are treated and interviewing prominent black conservatives like Herman Cain and Thomas Sowell.
Bryant is a former man of the left who switched sides in the early 1990s thanks in large part to radio talk show titan Rush Limbaugh.
“I was driving down the street looking for a client and looking for Jim Hightower,” he recalls. Bryant's car radio happened on Limbaugh’s afternoon broadcast, and he found himself unable to change the dial. “The things he was saying about the Clintons that was totally alien to my ears, but it was captivating. And the reasons he was saying them were more captivating.”
“I discovered there was an entirely different world out there, trying to tell others how precious freedom was,” he says.
Bryant, a former pastor and ex-head of the Garland, Texas branch of the NAACP, says appearing on screen – he appears frequently as the heart and soul of the narrative - wasn’t a new experience for him.
“Being a pastor for 26 years every Sunday you create an atmosphere, a story. That part of it was in place. I needed someone to help me write the story and move it toward film,” he says.
Cain caused some consternation during his run for the White House when he contended many black Americans were “brainwashed” into voting for the Democrat party. Bryant doesn’t dodge that allegation. He embraces it.
"There's a phenomenon in this country where 95 percent of blacks vote for one particular party," he says. "Very few of us feel there's something wrong with that."
When Cain made the accusation it caused an uproar. Bryant suggests it simply hit a nerve, comparing the reaction to what he used to see as a pastoral counselor dealing with abusive scenarios.
"Many times the victim will turn upon the person trying to liberate them, like a Stockholm Syndrome," he says. "They identify with their captors."
Bryant suggests some film studios wouldn’t mind scooping up the distribution rights to “Runaway Slave” and letting it languish on the proverbial shelf.
“There is an element of this country that doesn’t want this particular message to be heard,” he says, refusing to name any names but comparing his film’s situation to that of the long-delayed conservative feature “Atlas Shrugged.” “They will actually offer you money for it so they can put it on the shelf so it won’t be heard.”
Political films by Michael Moore rarely make an effort to change hearts and minds. Moore plays to the choir and rarely massages a note that might woo the undecided. That wasn’t Bryant’s goal with “Runaway Slave,” which will next be screened Feb. 9 at the CPAC 2012 event in Washington, D.C. before a national theatrical launch at the end of February - Black History Month.
“I particularly want to reach people who do not see it my way. The greatest desire that I have for this film someone will have an epiphany like I did,” he says.