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Posted on March 13th, 2013, by

Mississippi Burning is a famous movie of Alan Parker (1988). The story takes place in June 1964. In the U.S., a movement against racial discrimination is starting. Black children begin to study at the same schools with white ones, while their parents are demanding on rising salaries to the average level. But state of Mississippi stubbornly defends its right to a white supremacist. The movie shows how once the opposition of black and white people turns to tragedy. Unidentified members of the Ku Klux Klan, with the support of the local police burn the church, whose congregants were black, and brutally kill three activists who fight for the rights of African Americans.

FBI agents Rupert Anderson and Alan Ward investigate the mysterious case for 44 days. Local authorities actively prevent the investigation. But Ward and Anderson manage to find the truth. They find the bodies, which killers have buried with the help of bulldozer, and gather evidence for the trial, which has become one of the most notorious racial cases in U.S. history and led to the prohibition of the Ku Klux Klan.

The movie authentically shows America in the ’60s. At the time when in big cities black Americans were listening public speech by Martin Luther King, and were not afraid to fight for their rights, the little hick towns in the state of Mississippi were completely ruled by Ku Klux Klan. Black population of those towns lived with the old laws: they beat you – be patient, they burn your house – be silent.

This is one of the best movies of Alan Parker. It is not so much about the Ku Klux Klan, but about the life of the American remote places. Or any remote places After all, in any country there is confrontation between the shining and wealthy capital and remote, rustic and dusty province. In the story in the movie also touches the problem of traditional confrontation of developed and democratic American North and stable paternalistic South. Also it shows the political crisis and the struggle for civil rights of blacks. The film’s not so much about racism, but about how you perceive others-than-you. Three fighters for civil rights come to a small conservative town in the South of the U.S. in order to help register black voters and defend their political rights. But their problem (as well as the problem of two FBR agents who investigate their disappearance) lies in the fact that they are strangers to this small world. Graduates of prestigious universities, citizens of big cities who say tenets of equality and liberty, are bound to cause a clear (or hidden) opposition in the world of simple, conservative and stubborn Southerners, whose lifestyle hasn’t changed for centuries. Of course, just because the new president suddenly has fallen in love with these niggers, they are not going to abandon the usual values in life. And the bigger pressure it is, the worse the result will be. Because educated and civilized Willem Dafoe can’t understand sheriff of the small southern town. And this misunderstanding is mutual. Defoe perfectly conveys that enthusiasm of the right guy in a starched shirt and with a new car, who interferes with his worldview into a strange to him world; the guy, who absolutely doesn’t want to understand that for the inhabitants of this world, even a conversation with him is fraught with troubles.

Academy Award and six its nominations, three nominations for a Golden Globe, prize at Berlin Film Festival and three awards from BAFTA Mississippi Burning totally deserves all these awards. Director Alan Parker completely has flipped the Hollywood notion of what a detective and forensic drama is. Two hours of the movie show a broader picture of life in provincial America of the sixties, than hundreds of other movies have done.

But the main merit of Parker and scriptwriters is an incredible reliability of the movie. The film does not only meticulously investigate one of the most notorious crimes in U.S. history, doesn’t only carefully reproduce all the historical trivia (clothes and seats in the cafe for a black and white, characteristic accent and jargon), it is also not afraid to show investigators and servants of the law as immoral, cynical and unprincipled scoundrels. Methods, which agent Anderson did not hesitate to use in the investigation, shocked America, and even gave birth to a Code of Honor of FBI.
This movie has a lot in common with the book «We the People: A Concise Introduction to American Politics», written by Thomas E. Patterson. This book also faithfully describes American history, government and politics. Both these sources can be considered to be a guideline of US politics. Both of them make the viewer (reader) to think critically, analyze, and understand key concepts and ideas of policy at the time.

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