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  • Writer's pictureDelven Shaw

SON OF THE SOUTH is a feel-good disappointment


When Spike Lee is the Executive Director, and the director/writer (Barry Alexander Brown) served the same roles for DO THE RIGHT THING, you expect a new movie about racism in the south in the 60s to deliver a powerful punch. Yet SON OF THE SOUTH is a valentine to Bob Zellner, detailing his work as a Caucasian man dedicated to the cause of Civil Rights.


Undoubtedly, Zellner's contribution is essential to remember, and his long life as a teacher and activist was impactful. But there have been better films about this period - including the 2010 documentary Freedom Riders, Mississippi Burning (1998), and 4 Little Girls (1997), a documentary directed by Spike Lee.


SON OF THE SOUTH makes much of the fact that Bob (the movie star handsome Lucas Till) disobeys his grandfather, a Klansman (whose use of the n-word, while not surprising, is still shocking). And since the film's first moments reveal that the climax will be a near-lynching of this white man, the journey he takes is oddly dull. We see him answer the phones in an empty office of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), where he mostly observes the plotting and planning that follow. We watch him fall for a black woman and insert himself into a dangerously violent situation. But he does not come across as a passionate leader.


The screenplay never rises to the history it is documenting. The large cast does good work but cannot rise above the level of the script. Brian Dennehy is the hate-spewing grandfather, while Byron Herlong is his son who rebelled against the family history of bigotry. Sharonne Lanier is a surprisingly cheerful Rosa Parks, and Ludi Lin, Joey Thurmond, Michael Shirow, and Jake Abel lead a strong cast of ensemble players.


The film looks swell, with great cars, costumes, and architectural details. Hats off to Production Designer Eloise Crane Stammerjohn, Art Director Dane Moore, Set Decorator Pamela G. Ryan, and Costume Designer Michelle Green. Steven Argila is the composer, and Cinematographer is John Rosario,


All films about critical historical times are necessary to remember the past lessons. If any classrooms in America are still teaching racial history, SON OF THE SOUTH might be an excellent resource.


SON OF THE SOUTH is available on Amazon.



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