Mississippi Burning - The Root of Hatred

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
German title Mississippi Burning - The Root of Hatred
Original title Mississippi Burning
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1988
length 127 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Alan Parker
script Chris Gerolmo
production Frederick Zollo ,
Robert F. Colesberry
music Trevor Jones
camera Peter Biziou
cut Gerry Hambling

Mississippi Burning is a 1988 drama film directed by Alan Parker and starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe . It is based on real events.


1964 in the US state of Mississippi : Three young men were driving on a remote road at night when they were followed and harassed by seven men in three vehicles. When they see a police light on a vehicle, they stop. As a result, they are insulted as "Jewish villains" and "nigger friends" and shot. The three men (two white and one black) are civil rights activists who campaigned for blacks to vote. After the men are reported missing, two FBI agents are sent to rural Jessup County to investigate the case : the young Alan Ward from the north, who is faithful to the letter of the law, and the older Rupert Anderson, who was once a sheriff himself was in the southern state.

The open racism prevailing locally , the lack of willingness to cooperate on the part of the local police authorities and the black people intimidated by arson make the investigation difficult. When an attempt is made to intimidate both agents by putting a burning cross in front of their door, Ward calls in additional agents. You can find the young men's burned-out car in a swamp nearby. Now both are convinced that the missing people never left the area and must be dead. Ward then requests another hundred from the FBI and the military to search the entire swamp for the dead with their help. You can't find the bodies.

Meanwhile, Anderson tries to get in touch with the wife of Deputy Sheriff Clinton Pell, because a photo made him aware that she is a member of the Ku Klux Klan . She provides her husband with an alibi for the time of the crime, but later, appalled by what happened, confesses that her husband was involved in the murders and that the bodies are buried under a mound on a farm. When the FBI recovered the bodies, the perpetrators immediately suspect that Pell's wife had spoken; this is why she is later brutally beaten up by her husband and some accomplices. Ward then accepts Anderson's illegal methods.

They have Mayor Tilman kidnapped by a black FBI colleague because they notice that he knows what has happened because of his increasing aggressiveness over time. The FBI man forced him to testify under threats of torture and then let him go. According to his extorted testimony, Clinton Pell and his friend Frank Bailey shot the civil rights activists and others, including indirectly the sheriff, also helped. All are members of the Ku Klux Klan, which he also knew before the crime, and were instigated to do this by their chief Clayton Townley. However, because of the illegal method, this statement can not be used to prosecute , and a murder charge in Mississippi, even with sufficient evidence, is not promising because of the prevailing racism. Therefore, they decide to bring the perpetrators to a federal court for violating civil rights and to collect appropriate legal evidence against the perpetrators.

With the help of the illegal testimony, the FBI investigators can later collect this legal evidence through manipulation, lies and deception and get an insider to talk who confirms everything. Everyone involved is arrested and charged. Clinton Pell, Frank Bailey and Clayton Townley will each be sentenced to ten years in prison, Floyd Swilley and Wesley Cooke to seven years each, and Lester Cowens, the insider, to three years in prison. Sheriff Stuckey is acquitted for lack of evidence. Mayor Tilman hangs himself to avoid being arrested for aiding and abetting.


  • The film was inspired by the actual case of the murder of three civil rights activists ( James Earl Chaney , Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman ) by members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Neshoba County on June 21, 1964. The case was titled as early as 1975 Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan was filmed as a two-part TV docu-drama for the television station CBS , which was also broadcast on ZDF in 1980 under the German title FBI - Kampf dem Terror .
  • The film title refers to the code name of the FBI investigation into the case at the time: Mississippi Burning , MIBURN for short .
  • The shooting of the film began on March 7, 1988, ended in May 1988. The film was shot at various locations in the state of Mississippi as well as in La Fayette ( Alabama ).
  • Production costs were estimated at $ 15 million. Around 34.6 million US dollars were recorded in cinemas in the USA.
  • The nationwide theatrical release in the USA was on January 27, 1989, previously there was a release in selected regions in December 1988 (a so-called "Limited Release"). The film was released in Germany on April 6, 1989. The film was previously shown as part of the competition at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1989 .
  • Lawrence A. Rainey , who was the 1964 sheriff of Neshoba County, sued the Orion production company for defamation after the film was released . After Orion announced that it would present new witnesses who would confirm his involvement in the murders, he dropped the lawsuit in 1989.
  • The attack on Homer Wilkes described in the film is based on the real case of the African American Judge Edward Aaron. He was beaten up by six members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1957, seriously injured and castrated. Two of the perpetrators testified as key witnesses against the others and received reduced sentences. When the racist Governor George Wallace took office, he immediately pardoned the perpetrators - but not the two key witnesses. He did not give a reason.


"The problem [...] is the sadistic Dirty Harry scam that Hackman uses against the Ku Klux Klan brutalos in the south, beating them with their own weapons, as it were, and appealing to atavistic thirst for revenge: only help against pigs pig methods. In one scene, while FBI officers are grinning and shielding him in front of the door, Hackman puts the knife to the throat of a Southern policeman in the shaving parlor and scratches his face unmoved before he beats him up. [...] But especially in this authentic case, the FBI was careful not to give the silent and occasionally lynched majority in the south even one argument against the investigation. And the fact that a film that wants to denounce illegal injustice and conspiratorial brutality has to use their methods to combat them, of all things, weakens its moral position very much. "

“The film is a duel: Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe against the Ku Klux Klan. So it's pretty nonsense to accuse Alan Parker of not showing black heroes. What's worse is that Parker's gimmicky directing does pretty much anything to turn "Mississippi Burning" into a copycat movie from a gangster. Nonetheless, the film breaks a taboo: it puts a whole class of white American philistines in the wrong, and it shows the political interests behind the racial hatred of southerners. Parker's film has many weaknesses, but it's not harmless. "

"Atmospherically densely photographed, well played and consistently attractively staged, the film always stumbles when you look behind the lacquered facade of the top-class Hollywood production and see a flat and striking script, the dramaturgy of which consists of little more than: The FBI vs. . the KKK. [...] For those viewers who don't necessarily let themselves be bothered by the far-reaching, problematic representational strategies of American mainstream cinema with a well-told story, Mississippi Burning offers just that: rock-solid Hollywood narrative cinema. "

“In terms of the plot, not unlike the scheme of a Western, the film convincingly depicts the consequences of centuries of oppression of colored people - of course, the focus is once again on the whites. Exquisitely played and tightly staged. "


  • At the 1989 Academy Awards , cinematographer Peter Biziou won an Oscar in the Best Cinematography category . The film was also nominated for an Oscar in six other categories: Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Director (Alan Parker), Best Editing (Gerry Hambling), Best Picture, and Best Sound .
  • The film was nominated in four categories for the presentation of the Golden Globe Awards in 1989 : Best Director (Alan Parker), Best Actor - Drama (Gene Hackman), Best Screenplay (Chris Gerolmo), and Best Film - Drama .
  • In competition at the Berlin International Film Festival 1989 won Gene Hackman Film Prize Silver Bear as Best Actor , director Alan Parker was also responsible for the film award Golden Bear nominated.
  • At the British BAFTA Film Awards , the film won a prize in three categories (for camera, editing and sound) and was also nominated in two other categories (for direction and film music).
  • In 1989 the film won the Political Film Society Award for Human Rights .

Web links

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Bernd Pickert: Late judgment in the racism murder, in: TAZ, July 15, 2007 .
  2. Bernadette Calonego: murders of the Ku Klux Klan: Information on the Mississippi. How a documentary filmmaker found the racist perpetrator 43 years after the murder of two black teenagers , in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, May 17, 2010 .
  3. Frankfurter Rundschau: Mississippi Burning, in: FR-Online, July 25, 2008 .
  4. a b Der Spiegel: Deep in the South, in: Der Spiegel, March 20, 1989 .
  5. Aimee Edmondson, In Sullivan's Shadow. The Use And Abuse Of Libel Law During The Civil Rights Movement , Dissertation, University of Missouri 2008, pp. 111-115, pdf
  6. ^ A b W. Edward Harris: Miracle in Birmingham: A Civil Rights Memoir, 1954-1965 . Stonework Press, January 1, 2004, ISBN 978-0-9638864-7-7 , pp. 41 ff. ( Accessed July 8, 2013).
  7. Asa Carter . Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  8. Eskew, Glenn T. But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle , Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press , 1997. (p 115)
  9. ^ The Birmingham Church Bombing: Bombingham . Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  10. Mississippi Burning Quote .
  11. Andreas Kitt: Stories from America ... and half measures from Europe: Berlinale 1989 , in: Die Zeit, February 24, 1989 .
  12. Asokan Nirmalarajah: Whitewash, in: Editing - Das Filmmagazin .
  13. Mississippi Burning - The Root of Hate. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed May 28, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used