Pat Conroy, an ambitious, slightly rebellious idealistic teacher accepts Bennington county, SC's school board superintendent's offer to teach the all-black kids of the pauper fishery ... See full summary »
Pat Conroy, an ambitious, slightly rebellious idealistic teacher accepts Bennington county, SC's school board superintendent's offer to teach the all-black kids of the pauper fishery community on Yamacrew Island. Staffless 'head' mistress Brown incarnates stupidity and blind rule obedience, her didactic skills consisting in scolding and spanking her students. Pat moves heaven and earth to motivate and educate, but after finally getting through to pupils and parents is refused contract renewal by the arch-conservative authorities. Written by
The Water is Wide is based on Pat Conroy's book of the same title. It recounts a year he spent teaching African-American children on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast in the late 1960s. Mr. Conroy was young, naive, idealistic, and controversial. There are people still living in the South Carolina Lowcountry who regret the outcome of the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves, who will tell you that this work is fictional and unfair to the school superintendent and the black teacher. From my own experience working in Georgia schools during the same period, I know that Conroy's observations are right on target.
It is interesting to contrast this Hallmark Hall of Fame movie with the earlier Conrack. While Conrack was contemporary reporting, this movie is more historical. Daufauskie Island (called Yamacraw in the book and both films) is fast becoming an exclusive resort community. Several generations of teachers have passed through the school and it has come under public scrutiny.
This film makes a genuine effort to look at the situation of the black teacher trying to satisfy a white administration. Alfre Woodard states that Mrs. Brown is a very unique sort of black woman that existed during that period. She plays the character with more subtlety than Madge Sinclair did. Jeff Hephner does a fine job as the idealist novice teacher in unfamiliar surroundings. He plays Conroy with less anger than Jon Voight did, but is more believable.
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