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: 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 212.691.4224
Posted on January 9, 2007