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  • 12/28/07

    Banished Reveals Shameful Chapter in U.S. History: The Racial Cleansing of Dozens of Towns

    Film to premiere on the PBS series Independent Lens on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Visit the companion Website >>

    (San Francisco, CA)—BANISHED, a film revealing a shameful yet little-known chapter in the history of race relations in America will have its television premiere on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Terrence Howard, on Tuesday, February 19 at 10:00 PM (check local listings). From the 1860s to the 1920s, dozens of towns and counties across America practiced their own form of racial cleansing, violently expelling entire African American communities and forcing thousands of black families to flee their homes. A century later, these towns remain virtually all white. In BANISHED, filmmaker Marco Williams travels to three of these communities and asks: what can be done today to repair past injustice?

    BANISHED brings to light this hidden chapter of American history, telling these dramatic stories for the first time. Williams (TWO TOWNS OF JASPER) goes to these communities, following black descendants as they return to learn the shocking history of the towns where their ancestors once lived, and to speak with current white residents struggling to come to terms with their past.

    In Forsyth County, Georgia, a family whose ancestors were forced to abandon their 80-acre homestead in 1912 learns that their family land was stolen. In Pierce City, Missouri, which banished its black residents in 1901, two brothers try to persuade the town to disinter their great-grandfather, buried before his family was driven out, and move his remains to lie in peace beside his wife and children. In Harrison, Arkansas, a group of white citizens creates a task force to wrestle with their town's racial legacy.

    Williams takes the viewer on his travels to these towns, where his presence as an African American forces white residents to confront—or at least consider—their history. And the film takes on the controversial issue of reparations through the personal stories of families touched and changed by past atrocities, asking us to consider it again in a more human light. Can black and white Americans find common ground, and make reparations a path for healing America's racial divide?

    To learn more about the film and the issues, visit the companion website for BANISHED at Independent Lens online. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker and explore the subjects of racial cleansing and reparations in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions. BANISHED companion website launches January 8 at pbs.org/independentlens/banished.

    BANISHED is the featured February film for ITVS COMMUNITY CINEMA, the monthly screening series featuring upcoming selections from the Independent Lens season. Presented in partnership with local public television stations and leading community organizations, ITVS Community Cinema holds preview screenings in select markets across the country making a real contribution on a range of current social issues by connecting communities with organizations, information, and the opportunity to get involved. For more information, visit pbs.org/independentlens/getinvolved/cinema.

    About the Filmmaker Marco Williams is an award-winning documentary and fiction film director. Williams’ directing credits include: Freedom Summer (2006); I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown V. Board of Education (2004); MLK Blvd: The Concrete Dream (2003); TWO TOWNS OF JASPER (2002); Making Peace: Rebuilding Our Communities (1995), part three of a four-hour series profiling people working to heal the conditions that create violence in their communities; The Pursuit of Happiness: With Arianna Huffington (1994), a video essay created for an ITVS project on the Declaration of Independence; In Search Of Our Fathers (1991), about Williams’ seven-year effort to learn about and meet his father, broadcast on FRONTLINE; and From Harlem to Harvard (1982). Williams’ groundbreaking film TWO TOWNS OF JASPER , broadcast on P.O.V., received the 2004 George Foster Peabody Award and the 2004 Alfred I duPont Silver Baton, among many other awards. Williams’ dramatic short for Showtime, Without a Pass (1992), was nominated for three Cable ACE Awards including Best Director of a Theatrical Special and Best Theatrical Special.

    About Independent Lens Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10:00 PM on PBS. The acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history. Presented by ITVS, the series is supported by interactive companion websites and national publicity and community engagement campaigns. Further information about the series is available at pbs.org/independentlens. The series producer is Lois Vossen.

    CONTACT: Voleine Amilcar, 415-356-8383 x 244, voleine_amilcar@itvs.org Mary Lugo, 770-623-8190, lugo@negia.net Cara White, 843-881-1480, cara.white@mac.com

  • 1/09/07

    Banished to Premiere at 2007 Sundance Film Festival

    African Americans violently expelled from dozens of towns and counties across America. Thousands of acres of land lost. Thousands of families forced to flee their homes. One hundred years later, what can be done to repair past racial injustice?

    NEW YORK, NY – BANISHED, a film revealing a shameful yet little-known chapter in the history of race relations in America, will premiere January 22 in the documentary competition at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, the premier showcase for the best new work of American and international independent filmmakers. In BANISHED, filmmaker Marco Williams travels to three communities that forcibly expelled their entire African American populations in the past and asks: what can be done today to repair past injustice?

    From the 1860s to the 1920s, in at least a dozen of towns and counties across America, entire African American communities were violently expelled by their white neighbors. Even after a hundred years, many of these towns remain all white today.

    Directed by Marco Williams (TWO TOWNS OF JASPER, 2002 Sundance Film Festival) and co-produced by Two Tone Productions and the Center for Investigative Reporting, BANISHED tells the story of three of these communities, following black descendants as they return to learn the shocking history of the towns where their ancestors once lived, and the current white residents struggling with their terrible past.

    In Forsyth County, Georgia, a family whose ancestors were forced to abandon their 80-acre homestead in 1912 learns that their family land was stolen. In Pierce City, Missouri, which banished its black residents in 1901, two brothers try to persuade the town to disinter their great-grandfather, buried before his family was driven out, and move his remains to lie in peace beside his wife and children. In Harrison, Arkansas, a group of white citizens creates a task force to wrestle with their town's racial legacy.

    Williams takes the viewer on his travels to these towns, where his presence as an African American forces the white residents to confront, or at least consider their history. He asks a Chamber of Commerce president why a Confederate flag flies outside her office. He visits the director of the Ku Klux Klan to ask if minorities would be welcome as his neighbor. And he interrogates residents of all-white towns about what they may or may not owe to descendants of the banished African Americans.

    The returning African-American families and their stories are at the heart of the film, but BANISHED also considers the whites' point of view and the troubling legacy they have inherited. Experts, from historians to psychologists to legal scholars, weigh in on the complexities of redressing past racial injustice today.

    BANISHED takes on the controversial issue of reparations through the personal stories of families touched and changed by past atrocities, asking us to consider it again in a more human light. Reparations is an issue on which Americans are starkly divided. BANISHED asks the question: can Black and white Americans find common ground, and make reparations a path for healing America's racial divide?

    Marco Williams is best known for TWO TOWNS OF JASPER (2002) and In Search of our Fathers (1991), both of which were in competition at Sundance. His other work includes I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Ed. (2004), MLK Boulevard: The Concrete Dream (2003) and Freedom Summer (2006). BANISHED is edited by Kathryn Barnier and Sandra Christie, co-produced by Maia Harris, photographed by Stephen McCarthy, with an original score by jazz saxophonist David Murray.

    BANISHED is informed by the work of Pulitzer Prize winning Cox Newspapers reporter Elliot Jaspin, whose book, "Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America," will be published by Basic Books in March 2007.

    To maximize the impact of BANISHED, the producers are partnering with Working Films, leaders in linking independent documentary films with long-term community efforts, on a major public education campaign to be launched in Spring 2007.

    BANISHED is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting, Two Tone Productions, ITVS and the National Black Programming Consortium, with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional support was provided by the Ford Foundation, LEF Foundation, New York Community Trust and the Anthony Radziwill Documentary Fund/IFP.

    Learn more about BANISHED: www.banishedthefilm.com

    Screening times for BANISHED: Monday, Jan 22, 9:15 PM, Holiday Village Cinema III
    Tuesday, Jan 23, 11:30 AM, Holiday Village Cinema II
    Wednesday Jan 24, 9:00 PM, Broadway Centre Cinemas IV, SLC
    Wednesday, Jan 24, 9:15 AM, Holiday Village Cinema III
    Thursday, Jan 25, 12:00 PM, Screening Room, Sundance Village
    Friday, Jan 26, 2:30 PM, Library Center Theatre

    CONTACT: Jenny Lawhorn jennylawhorn@fatdot.net
    212.691.4224