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Indie Memphis Review: 'Bama Girl

October 10, 2008

‘Bama Girl is a well-told story about an African American female taking on the “Machine” at University of Alabama by running for Homecoming Queen. The “Machine” is the White Greek System that has controlled the decision of who wins Homecoming Queen for years. A system of coercion where a certain Sorority is selected each year and all other fraternities and sororities are required to vote in that manner, as well as work to campaign for the obviously chosen winner, the system is easily a reminder of the grander scale of American politics. Rachel Goslins directed for the first time with this and did a good job of capturing the narrative structure to tell the story. This is a great movie to open dialogue in a southern college town.

Jess is a strong female that learns how to use the system to her advantage. She doesn’t necessarily take on the Machine on her own, but instead uses the African American Greek System to help her gain votes. This concept I thought was interesting, there really was little chance for an independent, although they did show some independents that were also running. However, the story is not just black and white; but the issue helps to take on southern identity, racial tension in the modern university systems in the south, The Greek System, privilege and social status.

Also, I had seen this at its premiere and got the opportunity to meet Jess, who is a well-poised woman that seems very capable of taking on just about any challenge. It is worth watching her experience, and Goslins doesn’t sugarcoat it in anyway, she shows Jess’ flaws as well as the flaws of the system.

And I am likely going to show up for the Q&A just because I want to ask what I asked the first time but the film was too new for a response – How do the KA’s feel about their portrayal in this movie? As I said, Goslin doesn’t sugarcoat anything and I was appalled at the way the Alabama KA’s were in this doc.

Still, if racial issues may not be your thing, the film is still worth the entertainment value, although a true story, it has all of the suspense of a narrative as you are left wondering, will she win? Can one woman take down the system?

‘Bama Girl plays at 2pm on Saturday at Malco Studio Theater in Memphis as part of the Indie Memphis film festival.

For a far superior review – read Jette Kernion for Cinematical regarding the SXSW premiere of the doc.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    October 10, 2008 11:58 am

    The Machine is technically “a SELECT coalition of fraternities and sororities designed to influence campus politics.” While it is true that all the Machine fraternities/sororities are white, there are white fraternities/sororities that are NOT Machine.

    I know, it’s complicated. It is also ridiculous. But I am very excited about this film. I was a student at UA the year of the infamous Esquire profile…I guess the University has not changed as much in 10 years as they would like to believe.

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