Micki Dickoff, Tony Pagano
First Run Features
Neshoba, a First Run Features film currently in limited nationwide release, begins to pick up the pieces in a small Mississippi town 40 years after the murders of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, murders over which the Ku Klux Klan bragged in the mid-60's and yet murders for which the 21st century brought no closure nor sense of justice.
Suddenly, in 2005, the alleged mastermind of the murders, now 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen, was arrested and this community was forced to come face-to-face with its violent history, its definition of justice and the ultimate question of whether or not reconciliation could be possible without full disclosure of the truth.
Neshoba: The Price of Freedom is, from a production standpoint, a rather standard issue documentary not too far removed from a doc one might witness on the History Channel or any other cable network. Where co-directors Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano excel is in the way they manage to infiltrate the myriad of personalities involved including exclusive, first-time interviews with Killen himself.
Utilizing news footage, family photos, deeply moving narration and interviews and crime scene/autopsy photos, Dickoff and Pagano have created an intelligent, balanced and insightful documentary that may very well move you to tears in realizing that these horrific actions have happened in our very own lifetime.
The film was actually started shortly before Killen was arrested, just shy of the 40th anniversary of the killings. What had initially started as a survey of the region 40 years later suddenly turned into a psychological profile of a community with a dark, infected and festering wound that was only beginning to get cleansed.
At 86 minutes, Neshoba is a patient, well-paced and informative doc that avoids histrionics and, quite wisely, trusts the power of its story on both sides of the fence.
On a certain level, it's hard not to also regard Neshoba as a testimony to the healing and slowly developing unity that continues to inch its way across Mississippi, a state that continues to be regarded as a haven for racism and racist attitudes.
Perhaps, ever so slowly, the times they are a' changin.
Currently playing in New York and Los Angeles, Neshoba will likely find a home in limited release with a story guaranteed to have strong appeal in primarily urban settings and those areas of the country where the civil rights battles played out most fervently.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic