ARTS • BY TRAVIS HARE
This Wednesday, October 9, the documentary, Her Red Father, will make its theatrical debut at the Takoma Park Community Center. The movie revolves around the complicated life of Maryland native, Bernard Ades, a Jewish lawyer who was both a defender of civil rights and a Communist, Soviet sympathizer. The story is told mostly through the eyes of his daughter Janet Ades, who grew up in the shadow of her father’s noble work and troubling politics.
The film tells the story of Bernard Ades, a lawyer living in Baltimore, who was radicalized during the Great Depression and in 1931 joined the Communist Party. He first came to notoriety after defending a poor black man, Orphan Jones, accused of murdering a white family on the state’s eastern shore. While Jones was eventually found guilty, Ades was able to have the trial moved away from the eastern shore and convinced the judge to allow African Americans on the jury. These were seen as fairly large victories considering the era, making Ades a hero to many in the African-American community.
After the trail, the eastern shore community trumped up charges on Ades to punish the big city lawyer for meddling in their affairs. Ades was defended by Thurgood Marshall and a lawyer from the NAACP. It was both the first time a black lawyer defended a white client, and the first time the NAACP defended an individual – setting a precedent for the many individuals they would defend during the civil rights era.
From there the movie follows Ades failed run for governor, his time fighting against Fascism in the Spanish Civil War and the fallout back home during the days of the McCarthy, Hoover, Un-American Activities investigations.
The extensively researched film was written, directed and produced by New York artist, Tova Beck-Friedman. Though it is film full of faded old pictures and interviews, Beck-Friedman is able to keep the film moving at a fast pace, weaving in music, animation, and scenes from the events of the time.
While Beck-Friedman feels that the movie is almost complete, the screening is part of Docs in Progress, thus those in attendance will get to ask questions and even make suggestions. While Ades would like to enter the movie into film festivals, her ultimate goal is to have it shown on PBS. Admission to the screening is free and both Janet Ades and Beck-Friedman will be on hand.