The advent of portable sync-sound equipment in the early ‘60s meant, for the first time in the sound era, that filmmakers could go to the subject as opposed to bringing the subject to the camera. The ability to take a camera out into the world created the desire to “get it right,” to film the world independent of the act of filmmaking. In the US, all sorts of rules were being created in documentary film—no script, no narration, no interviews, no lighting, no mic boom, no collusion between subject and filmmaker.
In 1965, the second year of intense voter registration drives in Mississippi, we decided to make a film in the southwest corner of the state. Little civil rights work had been done there because of the danger in the region. Our approach was to seek out several story lines and then continue with the most interesting. A car bombing of a civil rights leader while we were there changed everything. The event emphasized the rifts in the black community around the demands for equality. Rifts between teenagers and women on the one hand and the black business community on the other. Rifts between black males forming armed protection groups and the call for non-violence by the major civil rights groups. And rifts between grassroots organizations and more traditional leadership organizations such as the FDP (Freedom Democratic Party) and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
Ed Pincus & David Neuman | 1970 | USA | 21m
Panola’s life was a performance. He was always “on the set.” Wino, tree pruner, possible police informant, philosopher, “the most dangerous X that ever was,”
“father of eight with one more on the way,” Panola challenged our filmmaking convictions. In no way could we film him independently of the presence of the camera. The conflict between our aesthetic convictions and the reality and authenticity Panola expressed led to few years of confusion, unsuccessful attempts at edits, and ultimately the need to find an outside editor (primarily Michal Goldman).