Skip to content

Documenting Mississippi

January 28, 2011

Documenting Mississippi in 2010 meant examining topics ranging from post-oil spill living to green living with a little bit of Klan, strip tease and food. Mississippi filmmakers took their cameras to the streets to tell the true stories of our state.

With Thad Lee’s film “Bill Lilly Builds a Green House,” the world premiere will showcase green building in Oxford.

“Jamo called me one day and asked if I could document the building of a container home. He had given me a job at As Seen On TV when I got back into town. I wanted to do something nice for him. He left the project after the first week or two because he was planning on opening a taco truck. By that time I had seen enough of Bill Lilly’s personality and vision to want to see the project through,” Lee said.

Lee said they filmed from August to Nov. 2009 and went to the construction site most afternoons when it was not raining. For Lee, the documentary was a learning experience as he had never seen the creation of a house before.

For Richard Ward, “The Sad Waltz” was a way to show just how much Pass Christian has changed from Hurricane Katrina to the BP oil spill.

“While I am not a native of Pass Christian, my family roots here stretch back for generations, and I have long wanted to do a documentary about it,” Ward said. “It took the latest disaster, the BP oil spill, to spur me to finally make the film.”

Much of the film is based on archival footage of the town from the 1950s to when Hurricane Camille came ashore in 1969.

“The new material that I shot for the film was mostly related to the oil spill and I had a pretty good idea of what I needed when I went out to shoot,” Ward said. “The hardest part was that dealing with approximately 60 years of triumph and tragedy in a place so near to my heart was emotionally draining.”

For Ben Guest, his subject in “The South Will Rise Again” was also an emotional experience. As the program manager for Mississippi Teacher Corps, Guest works with students to help educate and uplift youth in the state. But his subject, often does the opposite. Filming the Ku Klux Klan rally that was held on the University of Mississippi campus led to a short documentary on the event.

“Throughout the fall of 2009 the stakes kept getting raised regarding the chant ‘The South will rise again.’  First the Associated Student Body passed a resolution. Then the chancellor asked the students to stop the chant. Then the ultimatum. Then the YouTube clip of the frat guys. Then the canceling of ‘From Dixie with Love.’ At each point I said to myself, ‘I should get out my video camera and shoot some of this.’ Finally, when the KKK announced they were going to demonstrate I started shooting,” Guest said.

For Tobie Baker, “Valentease” was not only his first short documentary outside of what he needs for his work in public relations, but also his first burlesque show.

“I didn’t even realize burlesque shows were an entertainment option in today’s society. Since Valentease was Oxford’s first vaudeville revue, I had to capture it on film,” Baker said. “I obtained more than two hours of footage, the entire performance. The final story is about 17 minutes long.”

For Scott Magie, director of “When Cotton Blossoms,” telling Piney Woods School founder Laurence Jones story was a goal for a decade.

“I wrote a detailed outline and the first 70 pages of a feature-length screenplay, but then life happened and the project got pushed to the side,” Magie said. “By 2009, I realized the project would never happen if I waited for all the stars to align in just the right ways that I had intended, so I e-mailed the president of the Piney Woods School and asked if they wanted to do any sort of film project for their centennial celebration that year.”

Instead, Magie turned his feature into a short docu-drama and hired actors to portray the real life story. Many of the actors are from Piney Woods School with only a few professionals hired. Magie hails from out of state but much of the crew was made up by Mississippians.

“I want every American to know Jones’ story, but for now I’ll settle for every Mississippian,” Magie said. “This man is one of the heroes of your state’s history and he should be celebrated by all Mississippians.”

Also playing is “Smokes and Ears” Director Joe York and Brown Family Dairy with Directors Eric Griffis, Tyler Keith and Meghan Leonard; subject and crew are from Oxford.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: