Freedom on My Mind
|Freedom on My Mind|
|Directed by||Connie Field
|Written by||Michael Chandler|
|January, 1994 (premiere at Sundance)
22 June 1994 (USA)
Freedom on My Mind is a 1994 feature documentary film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, won that year's Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It is the first film to chronicle, in depth, the story of Freedom Summer. It was produced and directed by Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford.
The film vividly tells the complex and compelling history of the Mississippi voter registration struggles of 1961 to 1964: the interracial nature of the campaign, the tensions and conflicts, the fears and hopes. It is the story of youthful idealism and shared vision, of a generation who believed in and fought for the principles of democracy. Participants interviewed include Robert Parris Moses, Victoria Gray Adams, Endesha Ida Mae Holland, and Freedom Summer volunteers Marshall Ganz, Heather Booth, and Pam Allen.
In 1961, Mississippi was a virtual South African enclave within the United States. Everything was segregated. There were virtually no black voters. Bob Moses entered the state and the Mississippi Voter Registration Project began. The first black farmer who attempted to register was fatally shot by a Mississippi State Representative. But four years later, the registration was open. By 1990, Mississippi had more elected black officials than any other state in the country. As the New York Times said in their review of the film, "a handful of young people, black and white, believed they could change history. And did."
Freedom on My Mind dramatically interweaves powerful personal interviews, rare archival film and television footage, authentic Mississippi Delta blues, and vibrant Movement gospel songs that allows the viewer, in the words of The Washington Post Weekend, “to vicariously experience—or re-experience—a time of courage and fear, empowerment and subjugation, interracial coalition and bitter division." It emphasizes the strategic brilliance of Mississippi's young, black organizers. Barred from political participation, they created their own integrated party - the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. They recruited a thousand mostly white students from around the country to come to Mississippi, bringing the eyes and conscience of the nation with them. The students and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party organizers put together a delegation of sharecroppers, maids, and day-laborers that challenged the all-white delegates in the 1964 Democratic National Convention. They demanded equality and justice from the highest official in the land - the President - confronting the country's leading politicians to live up to the democratic values they professed to hold. Freedom on My Mind provides a sweeping panorama of a turbulent time: a time that tested America's purpose and its commitment to democracy. The legacy of that time, the achievements and failures, remain with us today.
Freedom on My Mind was invited to screen at festivals around the world, won multiple awards (see full list below) and was named “one of the ten best films” of 1994 by a variety of film critics, including The San Francisco Examiner and The Oakland Tribune; and Variety called it “a landmark documentary that chronicles the most tumultuous and significant years in the history of the civil rights movement. A must see.” It was broadcast on PBS’s American Experience and internationally, and has been used educationally in colleges and universities around the world.
The film received numerous positive reviews. The Washington Post exclaimed that it “conveys the human dimensions of the fight with such a powerful combination of sensitivity and intelligence and pure emotional insight that it seems as if the facts were being set down for the very first time. As political history this is superlative stuff.” The San Francisco Examiner called it "a great success. It manages not only to record the inspiring experiences of the white volunteers and black pioneers of the voting rights drive, but also to place those experiences within a larger and more depressing story of power politics at the national level."
Critic John Petrakis, of The Chicago Tribune, explained the film thusly: "Freedom On My Mind is a story of courage on the front lines in the battle against fear and ignorance. It is also a story of political savvy that led to political action, and of a few individuals whose brave deeds gave their lives extraordinary meaning. But mostly, it's a story of America, in all its glory and all its shame." And he went on to encourage viewership by saying: "This superbly produced documentary should be must-viewing for anyone with an interest in the civil rights movement or American history, or the desire to see how moral courage, hard work and a belief in common fairness can sometimes overwhelm the monolith of hate."
Awards and honors
- Sundance Film Festival: Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary (1994)
- Academy Awards: Nominated as Best Feature Documentary (1994)
- winner, Erik Barnouw Award, Organization of American Historians (1995)
- winner, John O’Connor Award, American Historical Association
- winner, Distinguished Documentary Award, International Documentary Association (1994)
- winner, CINE Golden Eagle (1996)
- "NY Times: Freedom on My Mind". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- "Freedom on My Mind". Sundance.org. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- "The 67th Academy Awards (1995) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. AMPAS. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
- "Past Winners of the Erik Barnouw Award". Organization of American Historians. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- Freedom on My Mind at the Internet Movie Database
- Clarity Films Official Site
- PBS American Experience
Children of Fate
|Sundance Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
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