By Carol Berry
“Columbus Day Legacy,” a half-hour documentary about the Denver Columbus Day parade and the protests that it engenders, will begin airing on PBS March 25. It will also be screening on April 2 at the Native American Film + Video Festival taking place at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
It’s likely that filmmaker Bennie Klair, Dine’, will get a more sympathetic reaction from the New York crowd than he did when he showed the film in Denver in February. There, on consecutive evenings, he showed the film to Italian-Americans whom he involved in the documentary, and then to Columbus Day parade critics.
Parade supporters who saw the documentary were angry that “the Indians” got the last word, Klair said, although he pointed out that film concludes with Italian-Americans at a post-parade party while parade opponents wait for their fellow protesters to get out of jail.
The following evening, polite approval from Natives opposed to the parade gave way to stinging criticism that the film neglected to show the police brutality that had occurred against protesters. Klair’s repeated, exasperated response: “The film is what it is.”
Klair added that he didn’t have footage of everything that took place at the parade, and that “PBS wanted both sides told.” For that reason, he included material about the 1914 Ludlow Massacre in southern Colorado, where striking miners and family members, many of them Italian-American, were killed by the Colorado National Guard.
If you want to celebrate Italian American pride, go ahead. Honor Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo, or some other great Italian. Just stop associating it with Columbus aka "America's First Terrorist."
For more on the subject, see Columbus Statue Defaced on Columbus Day and Columbus Day 2010 Protests.