Two Towns of Jasper
Whitney Dow, Marco Williams, Jennifer Latham, Steven Miller, Jonathan Weaver, Melissa Neidich
Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall during a racially charged conversation? Co-directors Whitney Dow and Marco Williams do the next best thing in this remarkably revealing documentary about a community in which the most vicious, racially motivated murder since the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till took place. Using two separate filmmaking teams -- an all-white crew filming white residents and an all-black crew filming black residents -- two Towns of Jasper captures very different views by townsfolk on opposite sides of the racial divide.
On June 7, 1998, James Byrd, an African American, was chained to a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas, and dragged behind it for three miles until his body disintegrated. Three local white men, with ties to white supremacist groups, were arrested and convicted of the crime. Over the course of the three murder trials, from January through December 1999, Dow and Williams documented the town of Jasper, speaking to residents in their homes, their churches, and their local meeting places.
It is astoundingly sobering to witness the enormous and somtimes shocking racial chasm between the black and white community as residents lowered their guard and revealed, for better or for worse, their true beliefs in the comfort of homogenized company. Dow and Williams's segregated lens provides unprecedented access into the racial views and mores of a Southern community. Some of what is revealed in conversation is as heartbreaking as the murder itself.