113 minutes | USA | Year
Section: Juneteenth Program (World Premiere)
Writer/Director: Andre Gaines
Editors: Cinque Northern, Ron Eigen, Patrick Murphy
Cinematographers: Derek Mindler, Lucas Pitassi
Composer: Kyle Townsend
Producers: Andre Gaines, p.g.a., Valerie Edwards
Executive Producers: Kevin Hart, Lena Waithe, Bryan Smiley, Rishi Rajani, Vinnie Malhotra, Christian Gregory, Chad Troutwine, Matt Rachamkin
Cast: Dick Gregory, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Lena Waithe, Harry Belafonte, Wanda Sykes, W. Kamau Bell
Comedian and activist Dick Gregory’s life is explored in this documentary. In the Tribeca Q&A online, director Andre Gaines talks about how he self-financed the film in order to get his debut feature made. The documentary interviews at least three of his biographers, which is very telling, that his life was very full and is hard to wrap up in a single book or film.
He made his comedy debut in 1959 in Chicago and met his wife the same year. Then in 1962 after a huge amount of success, he went down to Mississippi to engage in activism. Biographer Shelia Moses says, “He was a very wealthy man… he could have sent a check. Instead he went to Mississippi and put his life on the line.” Gregory became very close to Medgar Evers and only went home after a personal tragedy. If he hadn’t returned home, the film makes a case that he could have been in the car with Evers when he was assassinated. Gregory was also friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and was shot in the leg in Los Angeles around the time of the Watts riots in 1965.
One of the most stunning parts in the documentary was when he talked about going from 288 pounds to 98 pounds through the help of Dr. Alvenia Fulton in Chicago, calling her the world’s greatest nutritionist. He developed his own Bahamian diet. Dr. David Allen helped him finalize the formula and it was brought to the market in 1984. Gaines and producer Valerie Edwards talk about initially becoming aware of Gregory through hearing about the Bahamian diet. Gregory would help everyone he could to either lose weight or become a better version of themselves, including Walter Hudson who reportedly weighed over 1,000 pounds. Gregory helped him lose over 300 pounds.
Andre Gaines said in the Q&A that Gregory was at every event and “he was like the smart, black Forrest Gump.” Gregory really figured things out with his family and health-consciousness, although the documentary does state that it was hard to balance his responsibilities as a father, citizen, and civil rights activist. However, he did his best to raise consciousness regarding the pressing issues of his day and sought to elevate people’s lives around him. Toward the end of his life, he made appearances in The Hot Chick (2002)and the State of the Black Union in 2008; executive producer Lena Waithe became aware of Gregory after seeing him in the latter program.
All in all, I recommend watching The One and Only Dick Gregory. Waithe said in the Q&A that “the work that he did is still necessary” and that we must still fight, protest, and speak up. I completely agree!
-Gregory traveled with his juice machine
-Gregory became vegetarian and ultimately went vegan. His son paraphrased his reasons, “If I am not gonna harm another man, I’m going to give that same respect to other living things.”
-Gregory’s veganism was extreme: no animal products, no white flour, no white sugar, no fried foods
-Gregory chained the refrigerator after finding out that his family had gotten a pizza
-Gregory played an important role in finding a formula to get Yoko Ono and John Lennon off of drugs
-Gregory brought his remedy to Ethiopia with Michael Jackson in order to distribute it to children dying from the famine (using their own money)
-Gregory credits drinking orange juice, fruit juice, and taking a solution with kelp on long trips across the USA
Article was written by Allison McCulloch. Follow her Twitter.