A documentary examining the effect of a man dragged to death on the residents in Jasper, Texas.

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A documentary examining the effect of a man dragged to death on the residents in Jasper, Texas.

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15 May 1999 (France)  »

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Uneven, but tremendously powerful, poetic documentary about race in America
2 February 2012 | by (US) – See all my reviews

An odd mixing of old and new styles for Akerman. And while there are difficult, slow patches, the overall effect is shockingly powerful.

For about 15 minutes the film resembles her earlier cinema photo montages that give a sense of time and place only through raw images and sound, the camera still, or slowly moving past often seemingly random images that somehow add up to a coherent whole (D'Est, Hotel Monterey).

But, in Sud, suddenly there are head on interviews, a shockingly 'normal' style for this experimental film-maker talking first about racism in the South and how it has (and hasn't ) changed, and then about the infamous

James Byrd case, where, in 1998, an African American was dragged to his death for 3 miles behind a pick-up truck by a trio of young white supremacists.

We realize that the town and place of that horrific murder, Jasper, is what we've been looking at. It changes our whole perspective.

We follow the Byrd story through interviews with African-American friends and neighbors, white police and reporters, and by watching a memorial service for Byrd. As well as an interview about the white power movement and how it functions in the modern day world.

Some of this feels rough, and almost amateurish, moving, but sometimes without focus.

Yet when we get to the films last sequence, a wordless, seemingly endless drive looking backwards along the same stretch of road where Byrd was killed, black circles still painted on the road by investigators, showing where bits of Byrd's body were found, the whole piece takes on a deeply chilling and powerful resonance about racial hatred in America and the world.


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