White Pat Conroy was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina. In March, 1969 under the Beaufort School District, he starts a job teaching at a small poor school located on Daufuskie ...
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White Pat Conroy was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina. In March, 1969 under the Beaufort School District, he starts a job teaching at a small poor school located on Daufuskie Island, an island in a South Carolina river delta, the island accessible only by boat. The island is inhabited exclusively by blacks. He quickly learns that his students, who have never left the island, lack not only a basic understanding of academic items such as the alphabet and simple arithmetic, but also of other basic necessities of life such as personal hygiene. They can't even pronounce his name, they who call him Conrack. The teachers before him, including the school principal Mrs. Scott, have always treated the students as being slow and basically unteachable of academics. Conrack, a free thinking man, decides to expose his students not only to the academic subjects, but also to the gamut of life skills from brushing one's teeth to human anatomy, and some of the fun things in life like ... Written by
Director Martin Ritt insisted having students of Pat Conroy's portray themselves. See more »
As for my kids, I don't think I changed the quality of their lives significantly, or altered the fact that they have no share in the country that claimed them - the country that's failed them. All I know is I felt much beauty in my time with them.
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Martin Ritt seems to be a director who was always interested in social issues (as the son of immigrants, he had every incentive to be so, especially since he was blacklisted in the '50s). "Conrack" is based on Pat Conroy's novel "The Water is Wide", about his own experience in 1969 teaching a school of impoverished black children about the outside world, much to the chagrin of the right-wing superintendent (Hume Cronyn). What added to the movie's strength was the cultural and historical context: Conroy (Jon Voight) frustratedly tells another teacher how many of the children don't know about Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, the Vietnam War, or even where Vietnam is. He proceeds to enlighten them about all these factors.
Somewhere, I read a complaint that when Conroy played music for the children, he only played white music. The truth is, you can't blame the movie for that; it was based on Conroy's real experience. Either way, the movie's a real gem.
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