Producer of black power movie Matt Norman opens up about cancer and film anniversary

Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics.
Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics.

THIS year has proven to be bittersweet for Australian filmmaker Matt Norman.

It marks 10 years since the release of his documentary Salute, about his Olympic silver medallist uncle Peter Norman, who supported African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos in their black power salute at the 1968 Games, which itself was 50 years ago.

Peter Norman

Norman even started adapting his uncle’s life story into a Hollywood film with hopes to have it on screens within the next two years.

Norman also discovered, just six weeks ago, he has a brain tumour.

Matt Norman

Salute will reach Perth audiences on the big screen again at The Backlot in West Perth on March 26 with a Skype Q and A with the director.

Speaking candidly with Community News, Norman said he had a 90 day wait until surgery to remove the cancer.

“It has been a nightmare,” he said.

“I would have come to Perth for the screening but I can’t fly because of the tumour so it has been in my way of things I need to do.

“Recovery is only six weeks; it is a common surgery and the procedure has come a long way.

“I have been watching YouTube clips of the surgery to be familiar with it, so I am hopeful.”

Norman said he was pleased his documentary was still reaching audiences, with a topic and themes that were still pertinent today.

“It is more relevant today than it was 10 years ago; there is still racial divide in all countries and it is a massive issue in America and Australia,” he said.

Norman said he made the documentary to tell his Uncle Peter’s story about the role he played in the historic moment.

“When I went to his house as a kid, I would put on his silver medal and play with it,” he said.

“I knew about the picture but he never really discussed the story behind it and we always heard Tommie and John’s story in the media.”

Norman said he came to understand what a bold, heroic move it was for his uncle to support his mates during the civil rights movement.

“I lived in a racist town and knowing he supported black Americans at that time – it was not a popular thing to do then,” he said.

“And to give it perspective, this was the same year Martin Luther King Junior and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, and there were threats that shots could be fired at the Olympics, so it was dangerous for Peter to do that.”

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