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// Films // Two Towns of Jasper

Two Towns of Jasper

Whitney Dow & Marco Williams / United States / 2002 / 112 ' / English


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A black filmmaker and a white filmmaker explore the fallout from a racially-motivated murder in a small town.


TWO TOWNS OF JASPER is a feature-length documentary about the 1998 racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas. 2003. On June 7, 1998, a sleepy east Texas town awoke to the news of a horrifying crime. Early that Sunday morning, James Byrd Jr., an African-American, was viciously beaten, chained to the back of a pick-up truck, and dragged for three miles until his body was torn apart. Three white men, John William King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Berry - all with ties to the Arayan Nation - were arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder.

The film is a collaborative effort between a black and a white filmmaker, with the producers using segregated crews to document the town of Jasper over the course of the trials of the three men charged with dragging Mr. Byrd to his death. Many films have been made about the racial divide in America, but none to the producers' knowledge have used segregated crews as a lens on the subject. TWO TOWNS OF JASPER will resonate with anyone concerned with the divisions that separate one person from another, whether that division is based on race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or religion.

After spending the year apart, each filming within his respective race, the directors came together with editor Melissa Neidich to create a coherent, collaborative narrative; the result is TWO TOWNS OF JASPER. As the editorial progressed and the assembly took shape, the sense of material ownership began to evaporate. Sequence structure and story arc became hot topics in the edit room, yet race and racial perception remained at the core of every editorial discussion.

Through candid analysis of each other's work, the directors developed a construct that reflected the strongest elements of each narrative vision. The result is TWO TOWNS OF JASPER.


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