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Mississippi Burning Review

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By Richard Jansen Torquay Boys' Grammar School 14 November 2007 Alan Parker's take on racism in America during the 60's is thought provoking and necessary even today. he finest thing about Mississippi Burning is not that it is tense and thrilling, yet touching; but rather that it shows the pain and suffering of the black people on a personal level. You almost feel as though you're one of them, fighting for the same cause. Parker's genius is proven in the first scene. There is the simple yet powerful image of two drinking fountains: one for the whites, the other for the blacks. A pipe separates the fountains, symbolising how the two races are set apart from one another. Right from the outset you are guided into understanding the message of the film. However, there has been criticism made against 'Mississippi Burning'. The main controversy is over how it is not completely truthful. 'Most of the debate surrounding the film has focused on the way it distorts key events in the history of the civil rights movement.' ...read more.


Music plays a big part in making this film tense and electrifying. An early scene shows a car chase taking place. The KKK is chasing two civil rights workers and a black man. Firstly, the diegetic sound of the rumbling engine in a desolate area of countryside is unnerving. As the chasing car approaches the music kicks in, the use of non-diegetic sound lets you know they are out to kill. Another scene in which music plays a big part is when the local black community are singing together in a chapel. The scene starts by illustrating how joyful the black community is. A woman is immersed in playing the piano, children are singing and everyone is enjoying themselves. In seeing so many people happy, you feel warm inside; how could anything possibly go wrong? The camera cuts to a view of a pair of mysterious black boots. You find yourself asking the question; 'whose are they, FBI or KKK? You are shown a long shot of the church; you see how isolated and desolate it is. ...read more.


I have to say, the funeral speech scene is quite possibly one of the most passionate, powerful and poetic speeches ever on film. The repetition of the phrase 'I am sick and tired' emphasises the antagonism and hatred caused by the racial discrimination. Only this diegetic sound of speech is used, all other sound is blocked out; this makes you focus purely on the dramatic speech. It almost compares to Martin Luther King's famous speech and I think Parker has used this as a model for developing this scene into such a masterpiece. When this film was made, twenty years ago, it was rated 18. Nevertheless I think that it is necessary in today's culture for young people to be more aware of racial hatred in the world, particularly from a historical perspective. Moreover Parker has shown it in an understandable and clever way. It clearly shows evil and violence in a serious manner. There is no need for over exaggeration, special effects and silly action scenes. The sheer mood of the film gives excitement and entertainment, at the same time as giving a morale and important message. On the whole 'Mississippi Burning' is truly spectacular. ...read more.

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