Directed by Chantal Akerman
1999 - France/Belgium The Tectonic Theater Project’s Laramie Project inspired this weekend’s documentary programming. Tectonic’s visit to Laramie, Wyoming, where Matthew Shepard was murdered in 1998, is paralleled in Chantal Akerman’s portrait of Jaspar, Texas, site of the racially motivated killing of James Byrd Jr. in 1999, days before Akerman was to begin filming a project on the American South inspired by her love of William Faulkner and James Baldwin.
The filmmaker asks, "How does the southern silence become so heavy and so menacing so suddenly? How do the trees and the whole natural environment evoke so intensely death, blood, and the weight of history? How does the present call up the past?"
Akerman shifted her film’s focus to the brutal hate crime, mixing interviews with the local sheriff and elders of the black community with long static images and tracking shots of the bucolic Southern landscape.