Jasper, Texas (film)
|Directed by||Jeffrey W. Byrd|
|Written by||Jonathan Estrin|
Louis Gossett, Jr
Asche & Spencer|
|Edited by||Jeffrey Cooper|
|Distributed by||Showtime Networks|
Jasper, Texas is a 2003 American television film directed by Jeffrey W. Byrd. The teleplay by Jonathan Estrin is based on a true story and focuses on the aftermath of a crime in which three white men from the small town of Jasper, Texas, killed African American James Byrd, Jr. by dragging him behind their pickup truck.
The film was shown at the Philadelphia International Film Festival before being broadcast by Showtime on June 8, 2003.
In Jasper, Texas, in June 1998, three self-proclaimed white supremacists chain James Byrd, Jr., to the back of their pickup truck and drag him to his death over three miles of country road. When the town is forced to deal with an onslaught of media coverage that thrusts it into the collective conscience of the entire country and the arrival of contentious members of the Ku Klux Klan, and the Black Panthers, the once peaceful relationship between its white and black citizens is subjected to tension. Trying to maintain peace in the community as the trial of the three perpetrators commences are black mayor R.C. Horn and white sheriff Billy Rowles, neither of whom is prepared to handle all the negative publicity. Justice is served when two of the men are condemned to death and the third is sentenced to life in prison.
- Jon Voight ..... Billy Rowles
- Louis Gossett, Jr. ..... R.C. Horn
- Joe Morton ..... Walter Diggles
- Kate Trotter ..... Jamie Rowles
- Karen Robinson ..... Mary Horn
- Bokeem Woodbine ..... Khalid X
- Emily Yanc ..... Stella Byrd
- Blu Mankuma ..... James Byrd Sr.
- Roy T. Anderson ..... James Byrd, Jr.
- Neil Crone ..... Principal
David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "There's nothing fatally wrong with the film, but the muddled, overstuffed script and sometimes cheesy direction short-circuit the emotional potential of the treatment of James Byrd Jr.'s brutal dragging death five years ago in a small Texas town . . . The better TV films offer commentary and perspective subtly, through careful characterization and plot development. Jasper, Texas doesn't quite do that. Despite great performances from Voight and Gossett, the film trips over its own simplistic analysis of what 'getting along' between the races really means."
Laura Fries of Variety called the film "an introspective but somewhat Hollywoodized treatment" and continued, "The director's focus is very personal. Although he doesn't linger on details of the court case, the murder is presented in full-color detail. It is handled almost clinically, but not without sensitivity. To dance around the facts would be too great a disservice. To exploit the sensational nature of the crime also would be wrong. Instead, Byrd puts his trust into his very capable cast."
Awards and nominations
Screenwriter Jonathan Estrin was nominated for the Humanitas Prize. The film was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special but lost to D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear, and Lou Gossett, Jr. was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special but lost to Charles S. Dutton in D.C. Sniper.
Showtime Entertainment released the film on DVD on February 3, 2004. It is in fullscreen format with audio tracks in English and Spanish.
Portions of the film, including the intown scene, were shot in Beaverton, Ontario, Canada.