Big Sky Doc, Indie Grits, Atlanta, Newport Beach, Sidewalk, Hot Springs Doc, St Louis
The self-immolation of a local pastor forces a small Texan town to reckon with its history of racism.
In 2014, Charles Moore, a minister born and raised in Grand Saline TX set himself on fire, leaving behind a letter calling for the community to repent for its long history of mistreatment of African Americans. The film presents the steps leading to this action in belabored, slo-mo re-enactments, with some context provided through interviews with family members, friends, and community members. Older members of the community seem to be in denial about any allegations of racism or of the clear self-segregation that has resulted in the town being virtually absent of black people, while some younger residents seem more conflicted, and African Americans living outside of Grand Saline share their feelings of not being welcome there. Clocking in at under an hour, Fendelman’s earnest project feels more like a padded short than a fully developed feature, with the re-enactments serving as an unfortunate ponderous crutch that prevents a deeper dive into the core issues.