Films on The South

In the USA the region called The South is still infected by its history of Slavery.

EFFECTS OF HISTORY OF SLAVERY IN THE SOUTH

Spies of Mississippi

Documentary 2014 TV-PG 52m. In the 1960s, the state of Mississippi formed a secret agency that employed black spies to infiltrate and take down civil rights organizations.  I had heard about the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, but I wasn’t aware it was anything on this scale. 160,000 pages, with insiders traveling all over the US to infiltrate. And then its involvement in the Cheney, Goodman, Schwermer murders. That said, this is an excellent documentary that should be shown in every school in America. Not just as a lesson on racism, but as a lesson about power, how power works, and how power corrupts. This is an important film.

The Help

Docudrama 2011 PG-13 146 minutes. In 1960s Jackson, Miss., aspiring writer Eugenia Phelan crosses taboo racial lines by conversing with Aibileen Clark about her life as a housekeeper, and their ensuing friendship upsets the fragile dynamic between the haves and the have-nots. When other long-silent black servants begin opening up to Eugenia, the disapproving conservative Southern town soon gets swept up in the turbulence of changing times. See Full Review

The Loving Story
(Long Way Home: The Loving Story)

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 17M. This documentary profiles Mildred and Richard Loving, who were arrested in 1958 for breaking Virginia’s laws against interracial marriage. This couple fought for what they believed in and as a result a change spread across the nation. Her spirit was so intelligent and motherly and calm. His demeanor was so tough and honest and protective. This story is simply beautiful. A captivating look at the lives of the couple who reluctantly and inadvertently caused the eventual setting aside of the blatant racist laws in 16 states against interracial marriage. The last miscegenation laws was repealed in 2000 in Alabama. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Loving. I would have been proud to be their neighbor, proud have known them. This is a real love story, one man and one woman set the example for the rest to follow. I guess they’re true American heroes we never got to hear about. Amazing story. I do not think I have ever seen a better documentary, one that has better caught and held my interest.  See Full Review

American Blackout

Documentary 2006 NR 92 minutes. In this award-winning indictment of the election process, guerilla journalist Ian Inaba follows the efforts of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to expose disturbing tactics that systematically disenfranchise black voters and silence dissent. A passionate advocate for civil rights, McKinney calls on all citizens to question the political machinery and protect democracy from the institutionalized racism imperiling the country.See Full Review

Shut Up & Sing

Documentary 2006 R 93 minutes. Shut Up & Sing is a documentary that centers on country music’s The Dixie Chicks and their nationwide vilification over an off-hand critical comment one of them made about President George W. Bush on the eve of the Iraq war during their introduction to their song “Travelin’ Soldier”. The song is a tale about a shy, lonesome, young American soldier who strikes up a conversation and later a correspondence with a high school girl during the Vietnam War era, and at the end the soldier has died unnoticed by any except the young girl, who he realized he had fallen in love with. During the introduction to this song “Travelin’ Soldier” on March 10, 2003, during a London concert, 9 days before the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq, lead vocalist Natalie Maines, who along with her band mates Robison and Maguire are all natives of Texas, told the London audience: “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas”. The positive reaction to this statement from the British audience contrasted with the negative reaction that ensued in the U.S., including boycotts. The band was assaulted by talk-show conservatives, and their albums were discarded in public protests. Subsequent U.S. publication of Maines’ comments caused some stations, including 42 owned by Cumulus Media, to drop the song from their playlists, causing it to fall from No. 1 on the country singles chart the following week, before disappearing from the charts entirely. So “Travelin’ Soldier” was the last single released by the Dixie Chicks to reach the top 20 on the country singles chart. The title of the movie, Shut Up and Sing, comes from a comment made by a detractor during the controversy, which was magnified by the fact that the band and their fans are from the politically conservative South. Over a three-year period, the singers went from darlings of the industry to political targets being demonized by the national media and denounced by some ex-fans. Country music stations refused to play their music from fear of losing listeners. This documentary joins the Dixie Chicks’ journey following ‘The Incident’, after which the Chicks were boycotted on country radio and even received death threats simply for voicing an opinion and standing up for freedom of speech. The film does a good job of documenting the effect that a single comment by a performer had on the group’s entire career. Raises the question: Is it unpatriotic to make a negative comment about the President? Ever or just in a time of armed conflict? The subject matter transcends country music. This doc is about two things: 1) free speech and its consequences and (2) how we as Americans view free speech. The fact that the right-wing was so up-in-arms about this single comment is now laughable in view of the fact that much of the country eventually turned against that war for oil and the lies about weapons of mass destruction. These singers were spot-on and ahead of other citizens when it came to the (deserved) criticism of the Bush doctrine. It’s scary to watch what happened just a few years ago in this freeze on free speech. It is refreshing to see these true artists hold onto their integrity, whatever you think of their politics.  It is shameful that an ordinary jab at the president, that was so innocuous, led to such a crazy witch hunt. This movie is a wonderful cautionary tale. Highly recommended! Wake up, America! Documentary 2006 R 93 minutes. Directed by Barbara Kopple (of Harlan County, U.S.A. fame)

Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 31m. Prompted by a son’s wish to honor his filmmaker father, this documentary uncovers the impact of a bold decision made by an African American waiter to expose the true state of race relations in Mississippi in the turbulent 1960s.

Africans in America

Documentary Series Four Episodes 1998 NR 2 discs.  This documentary series recounts the history of slavery in America. The four episodes — “The Terrible Transformation,” “Revolution,” “Brotherly Love” and “Judgment Day” — span the years from 1450 to the end of the Civil War. The series explores the paradox at the heart of the American story: that a democracy declared all men equal but enslaved one group to provide prosperity to another.

Zora Neale Hurston
Jump at the Sun

Documentary 2008 NR. Revisit the South of the early 20th century and see how its culture shaped the artistic vision of Zora Neale Hurston, whose powerful novel Their Eyes Were Watching God illuminated the experience of black women in the decades after the Civil War. S. Epatha Merkerson narrates the PBS biopic that traces Hurston’s early life in the South to the Harlem Renaissance and includes a reenactment of a famous 1941 radio interview in New York.

Zora’s Roots

Documentary 2008 NR 60 minutes. While many enjoy the writing of anthropologist and Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston, few know the real woman behind the popular novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. This biographical portrait features reminiscences from those who knew her. Hurston drew constant inspiration from the tropical land where she grew up, a place that served as a source of comfort throughout the rest of her life.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Drama 2005 TV-14 113 minutes. Halle Berry stars in this version of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, adapted for television and produced by Oprah Winfrey. The story centers on Janie Crawford (Berry), a free-spirited woman who lives her life on her own terms. Refusing to accept her place as a black woman in the 1920s, Crawford lives life to its fullest and experiences a journey filled with great joy and unbearable heartache. Ruby Dee and Ruben Santiago-Hudson also star.

The Great Debaters

Docudrama 2007 PG-13 124 minutes. At all-black Wiley College in 1935, an activist professor pushes his debate team to a level of excellence that nets them a chance to take on Harvard University — the reigning national champs — in this inspiring drama based on a true story. When the team finally arrives at the Harvard contest, the viewer gets a full-on debate, and it’s worth the wait. The topic is civil disobedience, and as one of the film’s heroes describes his own life experiences as an African-American, the message deeply touches hearts and minds. While based on a true story, like many movies of this docudrama type, the accuracy of the details is suspect. (The team did beat the reigning champion, but the actual champion at the time was not the team from Harvard. In fact, Harvard’s participation is fictional. The Wiley team actually beat out the student debaters from the University of Southern California.) Still, I prefer to give it the benefit of the doubt. Here the goal seems to be to educate and entertain at the same time. I feel like this film ultimately succeeds at that and it is also a work of art. I highly recommend it. A must-see for everyone.

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CSA: Confederate States of America

Mockumentary 2004 PG-13 1hr29m.  Set in the fictitious, modern-day Confederate States of America, this satire imagines what it would be like if the South had won the Civil War.   The answer is that slavery would to this day be a way of life in this country, the Confederate States of America, affecting every aspect of life as we know it. The film is presented as if we’re watching a documentary on TV, complete with commercials and newsbreaks, which provide much humor in their overt racism.  See Full Review

Jefferson’s Blood

Documentary Frontline 2000. For years there existed a rumor that Thomas Jefferson had a long-standing relationship and several children by Sally Hemings, a woman who was his slave. Now, DNA tests all but prove the rumor true. An early hero of the anti-slavery movement, Jefferson wrote brilliantly of the corrupting influence of slavery on blacks and whites alike. Yet it is now apparent that he lived a dual life, sharing his house with his white daughter and grandchildren while his unacknowledged mistress and his children by her worked in the same house as slaves. In a personal essay, Frontline correspondent Shelby Steele examines Jefferson’s life and follows the descendants of Jefferson and Hemings as they undergo DNA testing, search out their family history, and try to sort out their place along America’s blurred color line.

A Woman Called Moses

Docudrama 1978 NR 200 minutes.  Narrated by Orson Welles, this 1978 made-for-TV movie stars Cicely Tyson as Harriet Tubman, who founded the Underground Railroad. At the risk of being recaptured, the abolitionist and former slave helped hundreds of enslaved African-Americans find their way to the freedom of the promised land: the northern states. Tubman also conducted reconnaissance for the Union Army and later became influential in the women’s suffrage movement.

Gone with the Wind

Drama 1939 G 233 minutes.  Director Victor Fleming’s 1939 epic adaption of Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name stars Vivien Leigh as self-absorbed, headstrong Scarlett O’Hara, a Southern Belle who meets her match in Rhett Butler just as the Civil War breaks out.

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Drama 1973 TV-PG 110 minutes. Based on the novel by Ernest J. Gaines, this highly acclaimed TV drama follows the life of Jane Pittman, a black woman born into slavery in the South during the 1850s who lives long enough to see the genesis of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. In 1962, 110-year-old Jane (Cicely Tyson) tells her story to a journalist (Michael Murphy). The film won eight Emmy Awards, including Best Lead Actress for Tyson and Best Director for John Korty.

Roots

Drama Miniseries 1979 NR 4 discs.  This Emmy Award-winning follow-up to the acclaimed TV miniseries “Roots,” based on Alex Haley’s genealogical novel, picks up after the Civil War during the Reconstruction and chronicles the African-American experience through the 1960s. James Earl Jones stars as Haley, with Al Freeman Jr. as Malcolm X and Marlon Brando as George Lincoln Rockwell. Georg Stanford Brown, Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee also star.

The Adventures of Huck Finn

Drama 1993 PG 108 minutes.  Follow a mischievous youngster, Huck (Elijah Wood), and a runaway slave, Jim (Courtney B. Vance), on a wild expedition to freedom. As the pair take the ride of their lives down the Mississippi River, they run into an entertaining assortment of offbeat characters. There’s the King (Jason Robards) and the Duke (Robbie Coltrane) for starters, and it is one challenging adventure after another in Mark Twain’s unforgettable saga.

Scottsboro
An American Tragedy

Documentary American Experience 2000 NR 90 minutes. When two white women accused nine black teenagers of raping them on an Alabama bus in 1931, their claims set off a chain reaction that eventually reached the Supreme Court — and launched the modern-day Civil Rights movement. Shot over five years on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, this fascinating installment of the “American Experience” series dissects the particulars of the case through the words of those who lived it.See Full Review

Heavens Fall

Docudrama 2006 PG-13 105 minutes. Inspired by the true events surrounding the “Scottsboro Nine,” this compelling drama follows the plight of nine young black men, unjustly sentenced to death in the spring of 1931, following the false accusations of raping two white women. Defended by New York attorney Sam Leibowitz (Timothy Hutton), the case became a watershed event in the history of the American legal system. David Strathairn and Anthony Mackie co-star.

The Murder of Emmett Till

Documentary American Experience 2003 NR 53 minutes.  This PBS “American Experience” documentary examines the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till and the subsequent acquittal of his killers. Considered a catalyst for America’s civil rights movement, Till’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world. While visiting the Deep South, Till whistled at a white woman, an act which led to his brutal killing. Activists organized after Till’s mother let national newspapers run pictures of her mangled son. See Full Review

The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till

Documentary 2005 PG-13 70 minutes.  When he visited family in Mississippi in 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till never imagined he wouldn’t be coming home. But that was before he met Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, who savagely beat and killed the boy for allegedly whistling at a white woman. This absorbing documentary from director Keith Beauchamp ultimately moved the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen the case in 2005, 50 years after the crime.

The Rosa Parks Story

Docudrama 2002 NR 90 minutes.  Angela Bassett stars in the story that sparked the birth of the modern civil rights movement in the late 1950s. Parks took the only available seat in the first row of the “colored” section on a city bus. But when a white woman boarded and the driver demanded that the black riders in her row move, everyone complied except Parks. This singular event threw Parks and her family into the Ku Klux Klan’s ring of hatred — and into the NAACP’s limelight. See also: The Long Walk Home.

The Long Walk Home

Drama 1990 PG 1hr35m. Miriam Thompson finds herself in the midst of a civil rights revolution when she helps her black maid during the infamous bus boycott of the 1950s.  The Long Walk Home is about as personal and realistic as you can get, and about as close as most people will ever come to understanding what life was like in the South back then. I know what it was like. In 1967, my Air Force father chose the Deep South as his next tour of duty after he got back from Viet Nam. The first thing I saw, riding into town, was a large billboard advertising some motel. I can still see those oversized words: “WHITES ONLY.” I didn’t get it. I asked my mom why a motel only let people named White stay there. I was horrified at her explanation. In my entire 13 years I’d only heard of two kinds of people: good people & bad people. Racism wasn’t subtle; it was ugly and in my face. The white kids hated this ‘Yankee, funny talkin’, race-mixin’ Air Force trash.’ The black kids were too afraid of retaliation to be my friends. if anything, the racism in this beautiful movie was far more subtle than anything I experienced. I was asked to leave a girl’s house for speaking to the maid as if she were a ‘real person’. There were a handful of people, like the character Sissy Spacek plays, who could no longer stomach what our society was like and stepped forward to do what they could to help…sometimes for very personal reasons and not all that political, but quite often very costly. The Long Walk Home is a great story, a good movie, a fable about discovering what is right, and a valuable history lesson…and maybe a soft tap on the shoulder for those of us living in modern times. The story, cast, acting, direction & cinematography are faultless. This is a movie that should NOT be missed. Highly recommended, especially to view with children. See also: The Rosa Parks Story and The Help.

Freedom Riders

Documentary, American Experience 2009 NR 111 minutes. Based on the award-winning book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, this documentary chronicles the daring and courage activists, black and white, who rode on interstate bus lines through the Southern states to challenge their segregation laws. Directed by Stanley Nelson (The Murder of Emmett Till), the film focuses on how the civil rights campaign was conceived, and how the movement eventually became a major concern for the Kennedy administration. See Full Review

To Kill a Mockingbird

Drama 1962 NR 130 minutes.   Southern comforts abound in this big-screen adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel as lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck, in an Oscar-winning role) defends an innocent black man (Brock Peters) against rape charges but ends up in a maelstrom of hate and prejudice. Meanwhile, with help from a friend (John Megna), Finch’s children, Jem (Phillip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham), set their sights on making contact with a reclusive neighbor (Robert Duvall).See Full Review

The Great Debaters

Docudrama 2007 PG-13 124 minutes. At all-black Wiley College in 1935, an activist professor pushes his debate team to a level of excellence that nets them a chance to take on Harvard University — the reigning national champs — in this inspiring drama based on a true story.

Passing Glory

Docudrama 1999 NR 94 minutes. Based on a true story set in 1960s New Orleans, Passing Glory stars Andre Braugher as Father Joseph Verrett, who sets up a match between his all-black high school’s undefeated basketball team and the top squad from an all-white prep school. In his attempt to stage the city’s first integrated basketball game, Father Verrett struggles to make sure his team is treated with respect while facing opposition from both black and white community leaders.

Foreign Student

Docudrama 1994 R 1hr 35m. In 1955, Philippe travels from Paris to Virginia on a scholarship and encounters American football, jazz, romance — and violent racial prejudice.

My Cousin Vinny

Comedy 1992 R 120 minutes. When teenage buddies Billy (Ralph Macchio) and Stan (Mitchell Whitfield) are falsely accused of croaking a convenience-store clerk in a backwoods Southern town, Billy calls on his Noo Yawk cousin Vinny (Joe Pesci), a fast-talking personal injury lawyer who’s never tried a case. Vinny’s crass demeanor lands him in hot water with the judge, but the lippy Brooklyn barrister has a few tricks up his sleeve. Oscar winner Marisa Tomei plays his gal pal.

Glory Road

Docudrama 2006 PG. Director James Gartner’s inspiring drama tells the true story of Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), a high school basketball coach who, in 1962, took the reins of the Texas Western Miners, an underdog NCAA Division One team, and decided to shake things up. Haskins’s insistence on recruiting the best players available to him, regardless of the color of their skin, revolutionized the sport … and changed the course of history.

Black Like Me

Docudrama 1964 105 min. John Finley Horton (James Whitmore) is a White Americanjournalist who artificially darkens his skin and passes for a black man in the deep South, from New Orleans to Atlanta, where he encounters a great deal of racism from both white and black peoples. Based on the true story of a white reporter who, at the height of the civil-rights movement, temporarily darkened his skin so that he could experience the realities of a black man’s life in the segregated South. Based on the book of the same name.

Mississippi Burning

Docudrama 1988 R 126 minutes. When two civil rights workers and an African American boy disappear in 1964 Mississippi, two FBI agents with divergent investigative styles move in on a beautician who knows the truth about the local Ku Klux Klan’s actions. Mississippi Burning is an immensely powerful film about the real life investigation of the murder of three civil rights workers in the 1960s.

Nadine

Comedy 1987 PG 83 mins.  Nadine Hightower (Kim Basinger) and her estranged hubby, Vernon (Jeff Bridges), burglarize a photographer’s office to retrieve compromising shots of Nadine. But when the shutterbug ends up dead and the panicked pair grabs the wrong folio, their troubles quickly double. Turns out they’ve uncovered a conspiracy involving a new Texas highway, and now they must evade not only the cops but also a scheming land baron in this likable caper comedy.  It reflects the look and feel of a small Texas town in the 1950’s. The cars, the storefront signs and the country music and southern accents seem realistic.  Rip Torn is from Texas and knows the accent and regional characters and he is interesting to watch playing the head bad guy.  Minor characters flit in and out and are designed to fit a stereotypical small-town, filled with southern characters with questionable intelligence and morality.  I meet too many people here in Austin Texas who are just like these two–pitiful examples of humanity.  Sure hope none of us have a cousin like Jeff’s!  Nothing but fun and nonsense.

The Last Picture Show

Drama 1971 R 126 mins.  There’s not much to do in the windswept Texas hamlet of Anarene, where the town’s only cinema is about to close forever. So high schoolers Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) lust after incorrigible flirt Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd) while trying to chart their uncertain futures. When Duane heads for Korea after joining the service and Jacy gets shipped off to college, Sonny is left behind in a veritable ghost town.

Easy Rider

Drama 1969 R 95 minutes.  With cash from a cocaine sale, two freewheeling hippies hop on their motorcycles and ride across America toward New Orleans, clashing with rednecks and picking up a boozy lawyer along the way in this counterculture classic.

In the Heat of the Night

Drama 1967 NR 110 minutes. Black Philadelphia detective Virgil Tibbs helps a redneck Southern sheriff solve a murder in this riveting study in racism that still strikes a chord. Rod Steiger won a Best Actor Oscar for his turn as the put-upon lawman who comes to respect Tibbs.

Black Klansman

Drama 1966 NR 1hr 26m. A light-skinned African-American impersonates a Caucasian to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan and get revenge on the bigots who killed his young daughter.

Inherit the Wind

Drama 1960 NR. Spencer Tracy (in an Oscar-nominated role) and Fredric March square off as opposing attorneys Henry Drummond and Matthew Harrison Brady, respectively, in this blistering courtroom drama about the famed 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial,” in which a Tennessee teacher was taken to task for teaching Darwinism in the classroom. The film also earned Oscar nods for its editing, screenplay and cinematography. Gene Kelly co-stars as a newspaper reporter.

Baby Doll

Black Dramedy 1956 R 114 minutes.  Written by Tennessee Williams, this black comedy tells the story of cotton gin owner Archie (Karl Malden) and his sexy teenage wife (Carroll Baker), who won’t consummate the marriage until she turns 20. When Archie battles a rival (Eli Wallach), he could lose his business — and his bride. The setting is a decrepit antebellum mansion in the run-down South long past its glory days of slavery.  Baker earned an Oscar nod, and director Elia Kazan won a Golden Globe for his steamy and, at the time of its release, controversial film.

Scottsboro
An American Tragedy

Documentary American Experience 2000 NR 90 minutes. When two white women accused nine black teenagers of raping them on an Alabama bus in 1931, their claims set off a chain reaction that eventually reached the Supreme Court — and launched the modern-day Civil Rights movement. Shot over five years on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, this fascinating installment of the “American Experience” series dissects the particulars of the case through the words of those who lived it.

HISTORY OF SLAVERY IN THE SOUTH

Africans in America

Documentary Series Four Episodes 1998 NR 2 discs. This documentary series recounts the history of slavery in America. The four episodes — “The Terrible Transformation,” “Revolution,” “Brotherly Love” and “Judgment Day” — span the years from 1450 to the end of the Civil War. The series explores the paradox at the heart of the American story: that a democracy declared all men equal but enslaved one group to provide prosperity to another.

12 Years a Slave

Docudrama 2013 R. The autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was abducted from New York state and sold into slavery in the mid-1800s, serves as the basis for this historical drama. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Northup, and Brad Pitt plays an abolitionist.

Twelve Years a Slave
Solomon Northup’s Odyssey
(Half-Slave, Half-Free)

Docudrama 1984 NR 117 minutes. Based on the autobiography Twelve Years a Slave, this gripping drama tells the true story of Solomon Northup (Avery Brooks), a black man living in Washington, D.C., in the mid-19th century. Northup, born a free man, works as a carpenter and musician. But one day in 1841, he’s kidnapped by a Louisiana slave owner and forced into slavery. Northup spends a dozen years enduring harrowing hardships, while his family desperately searches for him.

Slaves

Drama 1969 NR 1hr 45m. After being sold to a cruel plantation owner, a slave fights for his freedom and encourages his oppressed brothers and sisters to revolt.

Amistad

Docudrama 1997 R 155 minutes. An African-born slave leads a mutiny against his brutal captors, but because the ship is in American waters, a U.S. court must decide the slaves’ fates. In an eloquent courtroom speech, ex-president John Quincy Adams argues for the Africans’ freedom.

Slave Ship Mutiny

Documentary Secrets of the Dead 2010 TV-PG 53m. This inspiring documentary recounts a group of African slaves’ heroic struggle for freedom as they overtook their Dutch captors in a unified mutiny.

The Birth of a Nation

Drama 1915 NR 3hr 21m. The fates of two families intertwine in this controversial silent drama, a period saga that recounts the genesis of the U.S. Civil War, the destruction it wrought upon the populace and the ascent of the Ku Klux Klan in the war’s aftermath. Birth of a Nation is a complicated proposition: it’s important in the history of cinema, it’s a powerful piece of film making, and it’s racist. As for it’s importance, you need only to look at any movie made before (for example, The Last Days of Pompeii) to see what a leap Birth of a Nation was. Modern movie-making was essentially born with Birth of a Nation. But the racism is baldly obvious. The movie caused demonstrations against its horrific portrayal of African-Americans, even when the movie was brand new!  I couldn’t believe my eyes. **Spoiler Alert** Freed slaves taking power in the south? Reconstruction-Era whites powerless and oppressed? The KKK founded as a rebellion against the black’s tyranny? Wha…? That’s right, folks. This was the way Southerners of Griffith’s generation thought.

 

COAL MINING in APPALACHIA (WEST VIRGINIA / KENTUCKY)

Harlan County, U.S.A.

Documentary 1976 PG 103 minutes. Director Barbara Kopple’s film about the 1973 coal miners’ strike in Harlan County, Ky., won a Best Documentary Oscar and was selected for the National Film Registry. Highlighting the struggles of families living in shacks with no indoor plumbing and enduring hazardous working conditions, the film details the conflict between the Eastover Mining Co. and the laborers determined to join the United Mine Workers of America.See Full Review

The Last Mountain

Documentary 2011 PG 1hr 35m. This gripping documentary follows ordinary citizens in West Virginia’s Coal River Valley as they wage a campaign to prevent the infamous Massey Energy Company from expanding ruinous mountaintop removal mining operations in their community.See Full Review

Deep Down

Documentary Independent Lens 2010 PG 58 minutes. This episode of the Emmy-winning public television series spotlights the controversy raging in the hamlet of Maytown, Ky., where residents find themselves deeply divided over a powerful coal company’s plans to expand operations in their town. While some citizens desperately need the financial windfall that new mining would bring, others rally their neighbors to protect the homes and community that the mine would destroy.

Burning the Future: Coal in America

Documentary 2008 NR 89 minutes. David Novack directs this compelling documentary that explores the effects the nation’s coal dependency has on the residents of the Appalachian states, a region plagued by toxic water, devastating floods and disappearing mountain ranges. Novack’s cameras observe as West Virginian activists mount a seemingly impossible battle against the U.S. government-backed coal industry to save their families, their communities and their way of life.

Matewan

Drama 1987 PG-13.  Well-intentioned labor leader Joe Kenehan (Chris Cooper) arrives in Matewan, W. Va., to unionize the the coal mine workers. But his efforts to organize the coal company workers spark one of the most violent incidents in the history of the 1920-21 Coal Wars. Tensions grow between the minors and the company men, igniting a powder keg of racial hostility, corruption and betrayal. John Sayles directs; James Earl Jones also stars.

Huey Long

Documentary Ken Burns’ America 1985 NR 1hr 30m. The world of American politics has long been peopled with interesting characters — but few of them have been more colorful than Huey P. Long. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns captures the charisma that made Long the people’s politician, the “Kingfish.” This documentary explores Long’s life as a child, his ascent to power and his assassination in 1935.

All the King’s Men (1949)

Docudrama 1949 NR 110 minutes. Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) is a model politician — until he’s corrupted by the very system he tries to reform. Based on the cautionary Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards. It won Best Picture, as well as Best Actor and Actress for stars Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge (later the voice of the possessed Regan in The Exorcist). Stark’s character is based on Louisiana governor Huey Long.

All the King’s Men (2006)

Docudrama 2006 PG-13 128 minutes. Sean Penn stars as corrupt Southern politician Willie Stark — a charismatic man who wins the populist vote but, behind closed doors, is as underhanded as those he smeared — in this remake of an Oscar-winning 1949 film of the same name. Ex-reporter Jack Burden (Jude Law) unwittingly helps Stark gain political power, but it’s just a matter of time before the governor’s crooked dealings are exposed.

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