out of Five
Running time: 90
This incredibly heartfelt documentary paying profound tribute to the late Peter Norman and examining one of the most unforgettable moments in Olympic history is fascinating, well constructed and extremely moving.
What’s it all about?
In 1968, racial politics in the US was tense and when black Americans, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, came first and third in the 200 metres men’s sprint in that year’s Mexico City Olympic games, they raised their black-gloved fists in the air as a symbol against racial discrimination and as a sign of unity. This action then became known as the famous Black Salute, which to this day remains one of the most significant political moments in black history.
In the middle of the political uproar was the then-unknown, Australian sprinter Peter Norman, who came second, and despite not being directly affected by the political situation, unselfishly joined in his competitors’ protest. But as a result, Norman was shunned by his nation and refused the chance of competing in future Olympic Games. Both a historical documentary and a tribute to the late Peter Norman, Salute, written and directed by Matt Norman (the runner’s nephew) examines this heroic event, using archival footage and vintage recordings of interviews with Norman, Smith and Carlos.
Salute is an incredibly motivating and well constructed documentary with clear and achieved intentions. Its pacing is consistent, yet also manages a strong and powerful build up to the actual race and main event (which is nestled in with a powerful score composed by David Hirschfelder) and the substantial archival footage on display conveys the excitement and intensity of the incredible event to a praiseworthy degree. As a documentary, it’s a profound and fascinating work of storytelling, detailing every element of its revolutionary subject intricately and providing many moments of interest.
Thankfully, director Matt Norman keeps his emotional and personal attachment to the story at bay and as a result, Salute becomes not just a documentary, but also a monumental, and fair, tribute to Peter Norman, who is deservedly presented as a heroic humanitarian. The charmingly candid interviews with Norman, Smith and Carlos are fragile and personal, with Carlos openly mentioning how the events spurred his wife to later commit suicide and the trio interact in front of the camera like the relaxed, old friends they became to be, supplying invaluable intimacy to this documentary. All in all, Salute is both a truly touching and fascinating piece of documentary filmmaking that’s perfectly suited for all ages.
Salute is an engaging documentary that not only tells the facts, but also poignantly details an inspiring and heartfelt story of courage, loyalty and friendship. Highly recommended.