Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Below I've posted the first three parts of the documentary "Mississippi--A Self Portrait", directed by my father Frank De Felitta. Commissioned by NBC news and shot in the title state in the summer of 1967, the film is a startling, still difficult to look at view of what might be termed the flip side of the civil rights revolution; for much of it is concerned with the attitudes of the "backwards" white citizens of the state toward the sea change of events and political and racial philosophy that seemed to be innundating them from all sides.
I've shown this movie to people as recently as ten years ago who still find sections of it "offensive"--and that, I think, is one of its strengths. At a time when (necessarily) there was only one "correct" point of view about the changes that had to come to the southern United States, there was little or no attempt made to understand the difficulty that those changes brought to those who had been born and reared in a very different state with a very different mind-set. The topic is still a hot button one and frankly I hope to be getting at least a couple of comments deriding the very need to even portray this side of the civil rights era.
You will hear terminology, attitudes and lingo that you will find alternately baffling, offensive and sadly all too recent in our history to have been forgotten or forgiven. You will hear black Americans speak about themselves in ways that will pain you. And you'll hear white Mississippians offer platitudes, condescension and patronizing explinations about their supposed forward-thinking attitudes that will floor you. This was simply the truth of that time. My father's film recorded it with sympathy,
impassivity and no ideology whatsoever.
Whatever you think, I find it a sharp, evocative and oddly poignant piece of filmmaking and I hope you will too. As with last week's "Music Of The South", this film (along with all the other documentaries NBC commissioned) was junked 'for space' by the network in the 1970's. My father retained his 16mm print, which I then transferred to DVD for the Museum of Television and Radio where it has languished--infuriatingly uncatalogued--for ten years! I am pleased, now, to thrust the material into cyberspace, where it--and all things ultimately --truly belongs.
If you want to see the rest of the movie prior to my posting it, go to my youtube channel where it awaits you in its entirety. I'll post the rest of the movie here at the end of the week.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 11:06 AM