Film Reviews

PJC Film Summaries, Reviews and Impressions

These pieces are written by community members, PJC members, volunteers and interns.

Their views and opinions are not necessarily those of the Peace & Justice Center. If you would like to contribute to this list please send your piece of writing to program@pjcvt.org so we can add it. Thanks!

In the Peace & Justice Center’s Community Library we have a variety of films that people can check out.

selma bridge to ballot

Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot

Reviewed by Becca Camp-Allen

This movie is about the activism that happened in and around Selma, Alabama in the 1960s that lead to the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. This law prevented the practices of many states that kept African Americans from being able to register to vote. Part of this activism that is shown in this documentary was the many times the African American community (in Selma) marched through the town to the courthouse to try and register to vote. The film talks about Martin Luther King Jr.’s involvement with this activism, highlighting his leadership in the multiple attempts for a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery.

Watching this movie was an emotionally moving and educational experience for me. Being able to hear the stories first hand from people who had been a part of the movement helped me feel more informed on the subject. In school I didn’t really learned much about the civil rights movement. We were taught a bit about Doctor King, his involvement in the south, and about Rosa Parks, among other things, but nothing really in depth.

One of the stories that was particularly moving for me was the death of activist Jimmie Lee Jackson. In Marion, Alabama in 1965 there was a protest against the arrest of James Orange, a student activist from the city. The protest started at the Zion United Methodist Church and they planned to walk to the jail where Orange was being held. When the protesters left the church, however, Marion police came out of nowhere and started attacking them. Jackson and his family were among these protesters, and they ran to a nearby café, but they were cornered by police. Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot twice in the stomach by a police officer at close range while protecting his mother. He was brought to the hospital in Marion, but no one would help him, and then after hours of waiting he went to the hospital in Selma where he died 8 days later from his wounds. Jackson’s death was what lead to the multiple attempted marches from Selma to Alabama’s capital of Montgomery, which eventually led to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act. This legislation was so important to the African American community because it finally allowed them to register to vote unhindered and without fear of repercussions.

After some further research on Jimmie Lee Jackson’s death, I found out that the police officer who had shot him came forward in 2007. Former Alabama police officer James Bonard Fowler told a journalist that he was the one who shot Jackson, claiming it was self defense. In 2010, Fowler was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 6 months in prison. Reading about this verdict was very upsetting for me for multiple reasons. Fowler killed a man, and he only had to serve 6 months in prison 40+ years after the fact; this hardly seems like justice being served in my opinion.

I also have researched into what has been happening with the Voting Rights Act in more recent years. Two key parts of the Voting Rights Act were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013, saying that they were out of date and not necessary in today’s society. The parts that were overturned were sections 4 and 5. From what I read, these were two of the most important parts of the Voting Rights Act. I believe this legislation is important because it ensures that people of color (primarily Hispanic and African American people) are able to register to vote. To read more on these two sections, you can go here (www.justice.gov/crt/section-4-voting-rights-act#sec4) and here (http://www.justice.gov/crt/about-section-5-voting-rights-act). Having these sections overturned is a major step backwards for our country, and though I can’t speak for the people who were a part of the movement to have the Voting Rights Act made into law, I would think having these two key sections overturned would be like a slap in the face to all their hard work.

Pray The Devil Back To Hell Review

Reviewed by Becca Camp-Allen

Pray_the_Devil_Back_to_Hell_PosterWatching Pray the Devil Back to Hell was a very informative experience for me. The documentary is about the second civil war in Liberia that ended in 2003 and the women’s movement that rose up in response to the war to effectively end it using nonviolent peace tactics. Before watching this film, I had never heard of this Liberian civil war and all the atrocities both sides were committing. Nor had I heard of the women’s movement and all the good they accomplished to stop the war and promote peace. From what I know of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor after watching this film, I think his actions and the actions of the warlords who were trying to overthrow him were horrible. Both sides were recruiting boys as young as nine to be soldiers and were told they could do whatever they wanted. Women and girls were being raped and homes were ransacked very often. Due to the war, there was a food shortage, and people were starving as a result, and people were living in fear for their lives every day. The women who joined the movement against Charles Taylor and the warlords were very brave. Leymah Gbowee, one of the leaders of the women’s movement, along with the other women worked tirelessly with nonviolent tactics, and in the end were successful at bringing peace to Liberia.

What I really loved about this film was that these women came together despite their different faith communities. You have the Christian community who largely supported Charles Taylor, and you also have the Muslim community who largely supported the warlords in the conflict. There was a massive peaceful demonstration of women from both faith groups held near Charles Taylor’s home in Monrovia demanding he participate in peace negotiations. They also held a sex strike where they would not have sex with their husbands until there were serious peace negotiations and the war was ended. This movie shows the impact that a group of people who are organized and persistent can have on a country while using nonviolent peace tactics.

What I also really like about this film is that this isn’t a story of white people swooping in to save an African country. In fact, when UN troops came in for the disarmament after the successful peace negotiations, the situation in Liberia became worse, and it was the women who deescalated the situation.

This film beautifully captures how the women of Liberia were able to join forces and fight against the tyranny of their government and achieve peace. All of these women pretty much single handedly ended the war and exiled Charles Taylor. And they did this all while using peaceful tactics. Another example that stood out for me in the film was when all the warlords were there for peace negotiations in Ghana. Both sides had come together for peace talks, but no one was being particularly serious about ending the conflict. So all the women who had come peacefully protested by sitting outside the hall where the negotiations were happening and making it so no one could leave. They said they would move when both sides took the negotiations seriously. What really stood out for me was that someone announced that “General Leymah” had seized the peace negotiations. These women were not a military force, but they were being recognized as one. This showed how much power they had in resolving this huge conflict in their homeland.

Shadows of Liberty

Reviewed by Alix Mcatee
Shadows of Liberty Image Jean-Philippe Tremblay captures the rise, the establishment, and monopolization of American media corporations in his film Shadows of Liberty. These media conglomerates, such as General Electric, Viacom, News Corporation, and many more, have manipulated our democracy in favor of their corporate interest, in order to gain a profit. As a result, true news is silenced while entertainment and fabrications are put into the spotlight. The cases of many reporters, journalists, and whistleblowers are highlighted because they have revealed stories of government corruption, cover-ups, and shady deals. But, these stories have never gained attention from big media outlets like the New York Times, since these news sources financially and politically support the politicians who are committing these acts. In return for campaign money, the politicians create policies and laws that benefit big media. For example, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 enabled media corporations to become extremely powerful entities by allowing for merging deals and deregulation. As we move into the future, the public’s greatest interest is for a free and open Internet. Net Neutrality has become a concern because the people do not want the Internet service providers to censor or favor content since they have a deal with a particular website. Shadows of Liberty examines very significant and relevant issues pertaining to the news and media, which most Americans are completely unaware of since the corporations have the power to control what we read and hear.

Shadows of Liberty Review

Reviewed by Alix Mcatee

The film Shadows of Liberty, directed by Jean-Philippe Tremblay, was captivating and eye opening. It gave several reporters and journalists, whose investigative cases were silenced by big media corporations, a platform to tell their stories. Listening to these cases left me with a feeling of uncertainty for the future of the news, because these corporations are now more invested in political deals and covering up corruption; rather than revealing the truth. As a result, I am more skeptical about the news and I feel that I must question the integrity of what I am reading and hearing. Are there details of a particular story intentionally left out or is the story being completely manipulated to gain public attention? I also thought it was thought-provoking how the film addressed different policies passed by Congress that enabled the five biggest conglomerates to gain even more control of the media. I think Tremblay could have interviewed more individuals who have lost their jobs in local newspaper, radio, and television industries because a big corporation, such as TimeWarner or News Corporation, has gained control of the industry and local businesses cannot compete. I liked how the documentary ended with the focus on the Internet because there is currently a lot of debate, between the people, the government, and corporations, concerning the control of the Internet and Net Neutrality. Overall, I enjoyed this film because of how informative it was and how it addressed historical events and policies, which have affected our country’s media and news today.

Impressions from Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story

Reviewed by Becca Camp-Allen

Impressions from Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story In 1966, Frank De Felitta wrote and directed a NBC special called Mississippi: A Self Portrait. In this short documentary, he interviewed Booker Wright, an African American, who lived in Mississippi in the 1960s. Booker ran his own restaurant/store during the day and worked as a waiter at a white-only restaurant at night.

African American people living in the south were victims of violence by the KKK and racial discrimination was the code of the south, thus racial violence was condoned by white society. In his interview Booker spoke honestly about his treatment by customers at the white-only restaurant, and how he was expected to act in the presence of white customers. One statement he made to Frank De Felitta that struck a cord with me was “The meaner the man be, the more you smile although you’re crying on the inside.” What Booker said in Mississippi: A Self Portrait brought both the subtle and not-so-subtle daily plight of African Americans home for its viewers.

This short television documentary sparked controversy when it was released on NBC Television in 1966. Booker’s honest reflection of his life and racism effectively ruined his life. After the special aired, two things happened: Booker lost his job as a waiter at the white-only restaurant, and the business he owned and ran was bombed and destroyed. In 1973, Booker Wright was murdered, and it was suspected that his murder was connected to the airing of this film.

Decades later in 2012, Booker’s Place, a documentary filmed and written by Raymond De Filletta, Frank’s son, was produced in an effort to inform viewers of the lasting effects of Booker Wright’s speaking out. Raymond’s film shows interviews with members of Booker’s family who were still living, people from his community, and friends. As well, Raymond interviewed his father Frank with regard to the earlier film. Booker’s Place shares who Booker was, what happened to him and what happened to his community after his interview aired.

Watching this documentary has helped open my eyes to the many ways that attitudes and behaviors have and have not changed since the 1960’s. The movie informs us of the continued need for changes in the power structures that keep people of color isolated and without. I think most importantly, the nearly 50 years between these works is key in gauging for us the work that has been done and what remains to do. It shows us just how much further we must go to create positive change with regard to racial attitudes, economic power and violence. Specifically we are called to ask, what has and has not changed? While there has been a reduction in the amount of open physical violence against people of color by the everyday person, the racist attitudes engrained in the culture of the 1960’s is alive and well.

Hearing the story of a man who spoke with courage, knowing all the while there could be consequences, and still doing it because it was the right thing to do gives credence to the oppression and the importance of his fight. Racism is as alive today as it was when Frank De Filetta created his short documentary in 1966.

One important reason to watch this film and its predecessor is to see a history of oppression and violence over half a century from a “common” person’s perspective. Booker’s Place reiterates the fact that racism is still alive and well in America. I found this film to be especially important because I don’t think many people know about this brave man and what he sacrificed to expose his reality.

Before watching Booker’s Place, I had never heard of Booker Wright, and after watching it I can see that he was a quiet activist…just telling it the way it was. He was a wise man saying that he knew that people needed to hear this message. He didn’t soften his language for fear of offending white oppressors. For sure, his word’s moved me.

Lioness

A Review by Haley Ladeau

lioness Knowing what the women went through to get into the army and not knowing what they were actually getting into is kind of sad. The thing is that the main reason these women went into the army is to be able to get into college. Two of the women had children and families and it was hard for them to leave their families for a year or so and come back a different person.

Having the different sides to each of the women’s stories of war in Iraq helped to know how women were treated in war. They all started out as small jobs staying on base and not being able to go on missions with the men of the army group, then the leaders of the army had found out that they needed more people for the army and decided to make a new group for the army called the Lionesses. That was a group of women that would help with separating the women and children from the men and finding weapons in houses of the enemy. From most of the views of these women it was hard not to feel sorry for the women that had to go through all of this stress of people breaking in and taking their husbands away, so the Lionesses decided to be a good comfort to these women.

One of the Lionesses had written down all that she went through and one thing she said was that when they were riding down the street there were so many children without families, shelter, and food. The children were hopping onto the trucks begging for food, but she was told not to feed them. Another one from the Lionesses couldn’t help but cry when a woman was going out to the battle field where her husband was fighting and kept saying, “My husband.” She was heart-broken to know that so many of these women were losing their husbands over this war.

The Lionesses had it hard during the war, because they were treated less than the other people in their army group, like one of them were out in the field with the shooters and she was left behind getting shot at by the enemy while they group kept going. So, she caught up and kicked that leader in the nuts. But she was lucky that one of the Lionesses was on top of a roof watching over her and telling her what was going on at that moment.

Overall the pressure that those women went through was crazy. It was a great documentary about what happened to women in war and knowing how the government made it equal for women and men to be in the army together and letting women fight for this country and be remembered for what they are doing, because women deserve to be able to serve for this country just as much as men do.