Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Favorite Film at the 2014 Maryland Film Festival

My favorite film of the 2014 film festival was Freedom Summer. I saw many of the other films by the director Stanley Nelson. After I saw his film Freedom Riders at the 2010 Maryland Film Festival I sought out his other films. I thought the others were excellent and Freedom Summer was no different.

I saw ‘Summer’ in May of 2014 and just last month (April 2015) it won a prestigious Peabody Award.  "Reflecting excellence in quality, rather than popularity or commercial success, the Peabody is awarded to about 25–35 winners annually"

"With archival images, animation and fresh interviews, “Freedom Summer” recalls the voter-registration “freedom rides” of 1964, a campaign planned and trained for like a Civil Rights D-Day. The documentary is not only inspiring and instructive; it holds surprises even for those who believe they know this epochal American story."—Peabody Awards

I wasn’t surprised because I loved the film. It really detailed the civil rights struggle and all that were involved.

I never got a chance to review Freedom Summer, but here is an excerpt of an excellent one by CNN.

"The goal of Freedom Summer, though, was to do more than register black voters. It was to empower blacks as well. The volunteers established Freedom Schools where they taught black Mississippians about black history. They established an interracial delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention that made a daring, nationally publicized bid to unseat Mississippi's all-white delegation.

Some of the most powerful segments in the film, though, come during its smaller moments: A burly white sheriff viciously tries to snatch an American flag out of the hands of a small black boy leaving a courthouse; the boy bravely holds on while he's swung like a rag doll. A former beauty queen from Mississippi recounts how family members were driven from their homes simply for having dinner with Freedom Summer volunteers. A boy photographed being educated in a ramshackle Freedom School explains how that summer changed the arc of his life; he is now a poised college professor and author.  
One of the film's most riveting moments comes when volunteer Linda Wetmore Halpern tells a story that, until then, she had been too embarrassed to share.

Halpern was walking alone on a Mississippi road one day in her summer dress when a group of laughing white men drove up, surrounded her, and told her they hadn't killed a white girl yet.
The men grabbed her, tied a noose around her neck and tied the noose to the car. Then they started to drive, forcing her to keep up while calling her "nigger lover." As they sped up, Halpern says, she thought she was going to die.

The men then stopped, untied the noose from the car and laughed as they drove away. Halpern stood alone in the road petrified.
"I peed all over myself," she says, her voice shaking years later. "I just stood there and peed."

As you can read there were many wrought moments like these in the documentary. You can read the full CNN review here and you can watch the trailer below.

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