OPENS MAY 14

Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court made one of the most important rulings in American history: that “separate but equal” schools for black and white children were “inherently unequal.” To judge by the remarks of some of the high-schoolers heard in Peter Gilbert’s documentary, the significance of that finding is no longer broadly appreciated. With All Deliberate Speed may do a bit to mitigate that indifference, but it’s not the film the subject deserves. The clumsily structured movie seems at first to be mostly about the stalling that followed the 1954 ruling. (School systems from small-town South Carolina to big-city Massachusetts didn’t seriously seek compliance until the ’60s or ’70s.) But then Gilbert—who was one of the producers of the overrated Hoop Dreams—and scripter Nathan Antila meander to Howard University School of Law, where Dean Charles Houston handcrafted the lawyers who would dismantle legal segregation, and on to today’s Cardozo High School, where some smart kids address the unfinished business of educational equality. Plenty of interesting stories are told here, including those of several activists who were essentially run out of the South after the theoretical triumph of Brown v. Board of Education. Julian Bond and Thurgood Marshall Jr. provide commentary, and actors read excerpts from important texts—too bad Ben and Leo Sidran’s music competes so strenuously with much of the testimony. Although they arrive in something of a jumble, the things said in this film deserve to be well and widely heard. The film opens Friday, May 14 (see Showtimes for times), at Landmark’s E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. $9.25. (202) 452-7672. (Mark Jenkins)

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