Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story (2012)



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Movie Info

In 1965, documentary filmmaker Frank DeFelitta traveled to Mississippi to shoot a film on the subject of racism in the American South. As he went about observing life in Mississippi and interviewing the locals, Frank was introduced to an African-American waiter named Booker Wright. With utter candor and a brazen lack of concern for his own well-being, Booker appeared on tape in the documentary and spoke openly and honestly about the realities of living in a racist society. This brief interview forever changed the lives of Booker and his family, and more than 40 years later, Frank's son Raymond DeFelitta (director of City Island) returns to the site of his father's film to examine the repercussions of this fateful interview. -- (C) Tribeca
Documentary , Special Interest , Television
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Critic Reviews for Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (8)

With empathetic craftsmanship, the film unspools as a brief history of hatred that may be recognizable to anyone who lived through the 20th century or has been paying attention in the 21st.

Full Review… | April 28, 2012
New York Daily News
Top Critic

"Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story" doesn't flinch from asking tough questions...

Full Review… | April 26, 2012
New York Post
Top Critic

A kind of excavation and investigation of Mr. Wright's actions as a piece of civil rights history.

Full Review… | April 26, 2012
New York Times
Top Critic

Rediscovered historical footage plants the seed for a moving, beautifully crafted Civil Rights doc.

Full Review… | April 26, 2012
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

"Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story" is in equal measure a look at two families, the ongoing legacy of America's recent past and an essay on one man's moment of transformative courage.

Full Review… | April 24, 2012
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

It's a powerful testament to how far we both have and haven't come.

April 24, 2012
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story


The story behind Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story begins in the intensely racially segregated South of 1965. An NBC News documentarian named Frank DeFelitta went to Greenwood, Mississippi to gently prod its residents on the subjects of race and racism. He ended up turning a black waiter, Booker Wright, into an "accidental activist," when he opened up to DeFelitta on the ways the white patrons of Lusco's treat him. Now, DeFelitta's son, Raymond, has tracked down many of Booker's friends and family members to tell a sad story: After speaking with Frank, Booker was forced to leave the restaurant, and a few years later, he was murdered. Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story is quite a touching documentary. Frank, Raymond, and Yvette Johnson (Booker's granddaughter) all have unanswered questions about this tragic saga. Is Frank morally culpable in Booker's death? What is the responsibility of a documentarian when he or she has footage that will almost certainly cause its subject some degree of hardship? And Yvette-the one who initially coins the phrase "accidental activist" to describe the grandfather she wishes she could have known-longs to know what exactly Booker's intentions were. Did he mean to stir up trouble? Or was he just speaking honestly? Booker's Place is filmed in exquisite black and white-I guess an appropriate choice considering the subject matter. It also takes a lot of time placing its viewers in Greenwood. The town's past is frightening, and the younger DeFelitta manages to get this across to us visually as much as he does with talking heads. That's not to say his interviews aren't on point; He speaks to some real characters who have a lot to say, and one can't help but realize that they can speak freely because of Booker's courage. But the film probably isn't going to get much promotion from Greenwood's board of tourism, as I suspect (and DeFelitta hints) that things haven't gotten much better since the days of Booker Wright. The murder itself is almost glossed over. Ditto the material with Frank. The film probably needed to be 30 minutes longer so these issues could be further fleshed out and given their due. When exactly did Frank find out about Booker's death? What, if any, affect did the news have on his career? How did it shape Raymond's understanding of documentary filmmaking. Of course, it's probably not easy to probe one's 90-year-old father about one of the darkest moments of his life, but a deeper understanding of these issues would have given the film a clear thesis. Instead, it's a time-and-place movie and a moving eulogy for a deserving civil rights hero. That's fine, though, when a film does these things as well as Booker's Place does.

John Gilpatrick
John Gilpatrick

A filmmaker investigates the background and eventual fate of a black waiter who gave an incendiary speech in his father's documentary about racism in Mississippi in the 1960s. A moving and vivid examination of the black experience in Jim Crow's south.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

I was fortunate to see a screening of a documentary film called "Booker's Place" A Mississippi story. A story about two lives coming together and how it changed them and about the smile that rippled through the fight for civil rights in the South. I am always open to learn things, that is why I watch documentaries, but to go beyond just numbers and dates and put faces and emotions both good and bad to a point and time in history can really make a bigger impact and stay with you. That is what this film did for me, half way in to the film I thought about the movie "The Help" not to take away from the performances, but I just felt how safely watered down that movie was for mass consumption. The 1960's south shown here was a straight up shot, no ice or water added. It went down HARD and then it came back to kick you in the pants. It did what a great documentary is suppose to do, make you want to learn more about the time and subject. It was very interesting how a piece on the NBC news long ago brought these families together once again. And how important it still is today. A lot of importance is put into the next "Blockbuster", but if you want to see a "Brainbuster" and come away earnestly feeling and learning something. I highly recommend "Bookers Place" A Mississippi story.

Carlos Silva
Carlos Silva

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