Paying homage to the definitive black power homage
As far as historical milestones go, there is certainly an insignificant amount more rousing than the one concerning the symbolic, brave hand gesture that spawned a counterculture for the black civil rights movement. How ironic then, that this legitimately falls at the first hurdle, Norman’s handiwork never accumulating the sought inspirational highs, and more worried of the account of Peter Norman, the Aussie runner, ends up being somewhat of a watered-down tribute.
Director Matt Norman (who is actually Peter’s cousin), doesn’t get it all disastrously wrong. Focusing on the fallout post-Olympics, we are introduced to the political ugliness of Jim Crow-era 1968, (keeping in mind this is the year Martin Luther King and President Kennedy were assassinated for openly supporting the civil rights movement) and it’s hard not to be swept up in Christopher Kirby’s solemn narration. Furthermore, the plethora of primary interviews and archive footage – chiefly surrounding the holy trinity of ensemble sports personalities – add a lot of meaningful gravitas, there’s brilliant little scenes where the trio give their recollections as old men looking back.
Norman does spend a great duration of the doc labouring over the tedious details prior to the occasion, and those smartly conjecturing the futility of bringing to light the plight of one single occasion will be proven correct. Love-it-or-loathe it, the cynical, rather obtuse stances presented give audiences a chance to gauge the different attitudes of the time, but this still can’t prevent it being a tame retelling that leaves too much unsaid. Erroneously concentrating on the modest Norman (who’s consent led to his national shunning), this could have gained from revealing more of the curious stories of the other runners, Smith and Carlos.
Buffeted by placid story telling and hazy execution, Salute is as fascinating as it is friendly, so tragically flawed that it’s never worthy enough to weigh up to the momentous incident, let alone its fleet-footed talent. Unless you paid ill attention in history class, this will all prove a little too… familiar.