TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Director Mike Tollin’s documentary Rolling Along showcases former U.S. Senator, NBA star, and Presidential candidate Bill Bradley speaking in a one-man retrospective of his life. The man has lived many lives and has filled several seemingly disparate roles. After becoming an accomplished college and professional basketball player, he changed course into Democratic politics and advocated for progressive causes.
As a Senator, he slammed his pen down on the table in Congress one time for every blow suffered by Rodney King at the hands of the police. In Bradley’s sports days, there were still “Whites Only” rules, particularly in the South. When traveling, the team refused to split up, so Bradley experienced firsthand what it was like to be oppressed by the “Jim Crow” laws. His pivot to politics had the expected ups and downs, ending with a failed Presidential bid in 2000.
Bradley wrote this oral history of his life and presented it in New York City in December of 2021. Rolling Along is the live theatrical recording of said performance. Tollin interweaves still photos and short clips into the subject’s talk. As films go, even documentaries, this one is slow and quiet. It is literally one man on stage telling his story. He’s engaging and entertaining, but there’s no mic-drop humor or raucous finale. There’s no big reveal.
“…professional basketball player…changed course into Democratic politics…”
Bradley talks candidly about the goals he achieved and his professional and personal failures. It’s a wonderful opportunity afforded a person to recount and explain their life and have that be documented for posterity. One can’t help but wonder how your life would play in summary if given a microphone and 90 minutes on screen. What themes would thread through your experiences? What changes for the better have you made in the world?
What many would now call “wokeness” and “Critical Race Theory,” Bradley still calls by their old names: “compassion for differences” and “Civil Rights.” So-called Critical Race Theory is no more theory than gravity. From the very beginning, racial injustice has been baked into the DNA of this nation. This fact is recorded brilliantly by the ACLU’s Jeffery Robinson in the documentary film Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.
Rolling Along shows that Bradley has lived with integrity and has walked in the courage of his convictions. History is bound to judge Americans of this period harshly. While a small, vocal, ignorant segment of our society rails against the perceived threat to white supremacy they call “wokeness,” the rest of us have failed to shut that s**t down in a timely and definitive way. The differences now emerging in new forms of expression have always been here but pushed down or shunted off to dark corners by the tyranny of the majority. The torch and pitchfork “anti-woke” crowd insists on a “return” to a society that never existed in the first place.
There are none blameless in this divided dumpster fire of a country that can no longer be considered united. Bradley addresses that in this performance, capping off his life story with a plea for compassion and tolerance. More than that, he sees acceptance as the way. He exhorts us to “Take responsibility for yourself. Respect your fellow human being. Disagree with them honestly and civilly. Enjoy their humanity and never look down on people you don’t understand.” His life is an example to us all. Rolling Along is a compelling memoir as well as a vital document for our times.
"…a compelling memoir as well as a vital document for our times."