Directed by Chantal Akerman • Documentary • 1999 • 70 minutes
Inspired by her love of William Faulkner and James Baldwin, renowned director Chantal Akerman had planned to produce a meditation on the American South. However, just days before she was to begin filming, James Byrd, Jr. was murdered in Jasper, Texas. A black family man, Byrd has been severely beaten by three white men, chained to their truck, and dragged three miles through predominately black parts of the county.
Alternating static shots and dolly shots, Akerman reconstitutes the horrible incident. "We found pieces of his body all along the road," says one witness. But this is not an anatomy of his murder, nor the autopsy of a black man lynched by three white males. Rather, it is an evocation of how this event fits in to a landscape and climate that is as much mental as physical.
"Chantal Akerman is arguably the most important European director of her generation."—J. Hoberman, The Village Voice