Movie Review

Mississippi Burning

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
STAFF WRITER

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teen to Adult
Genre:
Drama
Length:
2 hr. 7 min.
Year of Release:
1988
USA Release:
_____
Cover Graphic from “Mississippi Burning”
Featuring: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Gailard Sartain
Director: Alan Parker
Producer: _____
Distributor: _____

This story is loosely based on events surrounding the murders of three ’60s civil-rights activists by the Ku Klux Klan.

When the three voter-registration workers mysteriously disappear, the FBI immediately steps in, based on their suspicion that it’s more than a simple missing-persons case. That assumption is correct; the opening scenes show us that they were murdered, and that law enforcement personnel were probably involved in the murders. Agent Ward (Willem Dafoe) is in charge of the investigation; but Agent Anderson (Gene Hackman), who was once a Mississippi sheriff himself, has a better feel for how to get things done among Southerners. The two agree on the goal, but constantly disagree on how best to achieve it. When Ward brings in more agents, resentful KKK members respond with a terrorism campaign against the black community. Finally, Anderson gets permission to use his preferred methods (which are just as ruthless as those of the Klan).

The film’s violence is pervasive and disturbing. Those used to TV police dramas, where the cops use lying and trickery or set two suspects against each other, will be only partially prepared for Anderson’s tactics; he has FBI agents pose as Klan, and he plays up (romantically and otherwise) to the wife of a deputy sheriff whom he suspects of involvement in the murders. But having already watched over an hour of both directed and random acts of violence against blacks (beatings, lynchings, firebombing of homes and churches), many viewers will consider Anderson’s actions as partially justified. Profanity is extreme. Sexual content is limited to Anderson’s approach to the deputy’s wife (Frances McDormand)—there’s a long-range camera shot where they appear to be kissing—and to threatened and actual attacks on men’s genitals.

I’m disgusted by the racist beliefs which many whites are shown as holding (and which some people still hold today and may even try to justify with Scripture). But I must admit that there’s a grain of truth in some of the statements that the film’s stereotyped Southerners make—such as the references to communist outside agitators. As a former ’60s civil-rights activist myself, I remember that when we were trying to reverse the expulsions of about a hundred black students at my college, Marxists from other schools kept showing up and butting into our demonstrations. For many of the outsiders, the priority was not getting the expelled students back in school, but rather milking the incident for the greatest amount of disruption. In private planning sessions, some of them tried to persuade us moderates to help shut down the entire school or even torch it (left-wing and right-wing extremists can sound remarkably similar). Whether it’s race relations, equality for women or labor-management disputes, communists are taught to take any issue and constantly stir it up, never let it be solved peacefully. Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), is just the opposite. When His kingdom is established, all strife will cease. I’m glad He’s already put peace into my heart and I don’t need to hate anyone.


Viewer Comments
The movie depicted real life racist views that were prevalant during the 1960’s. African-Americans endured a great struggle during this time period. Police harassment; cross burnings; the governor and other politicians: who are supposed to be the honorable leaders of the society, aiding in the abuse. Some officers even professed to be Klu Klux Klansman, OPENLY. As a young black African-American college student, I have done studies, both those required of me and some supplementary to the subject of African-American Racists views of the 1960’s. I found that the Klu Klux Klan and some of the other hatred groups did not start out as such. In the beginning, the particular group mentioned in “Mississippi Burning,” the Klu Klux Klan, was formed out of boredum. A group of young college students, who had absolutely nothing to do, decided to form a secret organization. At this point, the young men dressed up in white sheets and rode around the college campus on horses for fun, no harm done or intended.

Eventually, though, due to the opposition some of the group’s member acquired for Reconstruction Period in the South after the Civil War (a time when African-Americans were free and some even receiving government aid), the Klu Klux Klan would form one of the greatest platforms of hatred ever formed in America. The point I want to convey is that we have to be aware of Satan’s attacks: an organization that was originally created to be good, pure, clean, fun, was distorted into an organization that promoted hatred, abuse, degradation, and murder. In the beginning, the creation of man was meant for good. But, because Adam sinned, it was contaminated into evil—just the same as the Klu Klux Klan.

Jesus warns us in Matt. 24:4 to “Take heed that no man deceive you” as he tells us about the end times. And, Peter writes to us to “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” I TOTALLY AGREE with the review. We must seek peace amongst ourselves. It is a commandment of God that we “Love ye one another”—the greatest commandment with promise. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of LOVE!! We must pursue this concept of love in our homes, in our families, in our churches, in our community, and in our society as a whole!
—Lakechia Polk-Hodge, age 23