It's official. My new documentary, "Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story", will premiere this April at the Tribeca Film Festival in good old New York City. This is the same festival that preemed (as they say in VarietySpeak) my recent feature "City Island", which wound up taking the festival's coveted Audience Award (and which came with a cash prize...a cash prize! Do you dig it?)
I couldn't be happier with TFF as the venue for this very personal film, which centers on the appearance of a black waiter named Booker Wright in a documentary made by my father, Frank De Felitta, in the mid 1960's. That film, "Mississippi: A Self-Portrait" was an brutally honest look at the town of Greenwood Mississippi during the heated struggles of the civil rights era. Booker, who was employed as a waiter at a "whites only" restaurant, looked right down the barrel of the NBC news cameras and--in a startlingly provocative and emotional speech--described the truth about what it was like to be a black servant to the white "planter" class.
The fallout for Booker was extreme. After the film aired on NBC, he was beaten so severely by a white police officer that he had to be hospitalized. His store (he ran his own cafe on the black side of town) was vandalized. And a few years later he was murdered. Though the culprit was caught, tried and imprisoned for life (he was a young black man), the case against him is murky and unconvincing. Booker Wright's murder is a big question mark to me and we raise the possibility in my film that it was probably related to his controversial appearance in my father's film.
I've blogged about Booker in the past--so check it out if you're interested. Here's a link to the Tribeca Film Festival website with more details on the films premiere. I'll also be creating a series of podcasts in the coming weeks about the making of the film. And, most importantly, I plan to use this blog as a celebration of all-things-documentary. I'll be posting classic docs of the past and clips of period news footage about the civil rights years.
Welcome to "Booker's Place", a movie about a time and place and way of life that no longer exists. Or does it? Some traveling music, from the great (and neglected) Barbeque Bob...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 10:13 AM