The most common question to jump start conversation with people standing in a festival wait line, or with the person sitting in the next theater seat, or chit chat with a fellow press pass holder, is “What films have you liked so far?” Here the film most often mentioned was Prom Night in Mississippi (see film review on page 14). Many films that were showcased pertained to the perpetual dark side of life offering little hope, but the documentary Prom Night in Mississippi was most definitely a film with a happy thought. The twinkle in the eye, the lip curl of a smile or the positive verbal comment indicating a favorite made me feel happy for the filmmakers. They effectively communicated a very personal story with a lasting impression. The film audience expressed pleasure to view a film with a positive impact. The film’s message is to encourage all of mankind to “do something” to make a positive difference in the world. And, even though it might require patience, it is often not that difficult and well worth the effort.
In Prom Night in Mississippi, Academy Award Winner Morgan Freeman proposes to pay for an integrated prom night in place of the traditional segregated one. His proposal addressed a deep-rooted conflict of racial segregation still affecting people in his home town of Charleston, Mississippi. Freeman’s example by his “one-step-toward-a-solution” involvement encouraged others to get on board with the idea which created excitement and joy. The line-up of interested people had been in place for a long time, especially the students. He took the first step; the school took the next step and passed the baton to the students who took off running with the idea. Together they were agents of change who will never to be forgotten in Charleston’s history.
Did they have opposition? Absolutely! Impressive was how each party communicated their qualms with sincere honesty. The stimulating dialogue created an understanding of their position which once absorbed, it endeared the film audience. I believe that everyone could relate to it in some form or another, as well as, reminiscence of their own prom night.
Thanks to the filmmakers who allowed the film audience to observe a learning process for risk takers. The students’ energy to make a difference was visualized in their delightful cam shots. Freeman’s believable sincerity avoiding an “in your face” attitude exemplifies his genteel leadership style worth emulating. The opening prayer to kick off the integrated prom night embraced by young and old in attendance gave insight to a town’s moral consciousness to build on goodness. It is no wonder Mr. Freeman believes that his town is a wonderful safe haven open to flaws that need a remedy. The happy thought is to know that Charleston, Mississippi’s, graduating class of 2008 chose to be apart of a cure for change in their community and, by example, their story will not hide under a bushel but instead it will break out and say, “No!” to injustice.
The Senior Class of 2008 in Charleston, Mississippi took a stand with class. As the closing song, “Don’t Give Up,” performs to a slow faded black screen, my husband turned to me and said, “Wow! What an amazing story! It makes me want to dance!” Now, that is a happy thought!
I am proud to announce that the Prom Night in Mississippi was picked up by HBO at the Sundance Festival for distribution to air Monday, June 29, 2009.