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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, October 2002

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

The next few months will see the releases of two landmark films that look in very different ways at two similar, tragic systems of government—Jim Crow segregation in America and Apartheid in South Africa.

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, from filmmakers Richard Wormser, Bill Jersey and Sam Pollard, examines the period from just after the Civil War to the 1954 Supreme Court decision on Brown v. Board of Education. It is a period that effectively fills in the gap--in terms of major documentary programs that explore the history of race and race relations in America—between where Ken Burns left off with The Civil War and where Henry Hampton took up with Eyes on the Prize. Wormser talks about the eight-year journey that he, Jersey and Pollard took in capturing this relatively underexamined period in American history—and documenting the stories of those who lived through and fought in the struggle.

AMANDLA! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony will premiere in theaters early next year via Artisan Entertainment and on cable next spring on HBO. The film, which has garnered major awards at Sundance and other festivals, celebrates the music of the anti-Apartheid movement and how that music helped to fuel the struggle. First-time feature filmmakers Lee Hirsch and Sherry Simpson, both Americans, had honed their craft and art in music video and political activism—particularly in pre-Mandela South Africa. During the dozen or so years it took to make the film, Hirsch and Simpson witnessed a lot of history—the liberation of Mandela, the fall of Apartheid, the first full democratic election—but it is the music they uncover, both recorded and improvised on camera, that tells the whole story of the struggle. Michael Rose talks with Hirsch and Simpson about the long, arduous, but ultimately fruitful, process of bringing this rich musical history to the screen.

Speaking of the screen—the big screen, that is—we talk to filmmaker Arthur Dong, a champion of self-distribution to theaters, about his latest film, Family Fundamentals, which profiles three families in deep emotional conflict over the issue of homosexuality among the children and religious fundamentalism among the parents. Dong talks about taking his film on the road—to festivals, theaters, conferences— to his intended audience: the gay and lesbian community a well as the conservative, faith-based community.

Also in this magazine, we launch “Reality Check,” a running column from Steve Rosenbaum of CameraPlanet. This month, he discusses how some players in the industry are working to wire theaters across the country for digital distribution, making for a viable, cost-effective future for documentary makers getting their films into theaters.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White