Yesterday I got to watch a rough cut of the film.
I'm not even sure what to say about it. First, it was brilliant. I LOVED it. It tells the story of Booker Wright, my journey to find him, Frank's desire to help Mississippians and wondering if he did more harm than good, Ray's relationship with his father and his father's work, and through all of these different lenses, you also get a glimpse of the story of Greenwood and it's conflicted role in the civil rights movement.
Watching it was surreal and bittersweet. I'm still processing which moments made it in and which ones didn't. I'm amazed at how Raymond was able to distill so many hours of footage down into one neat little package. I'm sad about some of the story lines that didn't make the cut and elated that others were left on the cutting room floor.
There is one thing I know for sure. The film is simply beautiful. Our director of photography is a guy named Joe Victorine. I knew from working with him that he was thoughtful and deliberate about his craft. What I mean is that, filmmaking is really hard work and it can often be quite physical. Joe never cut corners. Regardless of how hot or exhausted he was, it was clear that he always wanted to get each shot and each moment just right.
In spite of heat, mosquitoes, and how much odd equipment needed to be manipulated or carted from one distant place to another - Joe always wanted to get it right. He was meticulous and thoughtful about every single moment of film that he shot. Now I see why. This film is beautiful to look at. So often the camera is moving in a way that is almost imperceptible, but it captures the subtle pain or irony in a moment without ever intruding on it.
When I was in Greenwood on the first trip I got to go into Booker's Place which is now a rundown and dilapidated building. I tried to take in as much as I could while I searched for the spirit of my grandfather. What Joe captured of Booker's Place on film is an accurate representation of what it was like to be in the space. It's as if the camera was searching for the same thing that I was - a glimpse of Booker Wright. It was searching for an indication of his spirit in each piece of furniture, in the dust, and even in the air.
How to do this, how to use a camera - a simple machine - to communicate a heartbreaking truth is something that is beyond my ability to grasp. Joe simply has a gift and I am monumentally grateful that he shared it with us in the making of this film.