VCU Department of History Presents the Sixth Annual Southern Film Festival

Sophia Belletti
Staff Writer

From Sept. 10 through Sept. 12, the VCU Department of History sponsored the sixth annual Southern Film Festival. The festival was produced by co-sponsors the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), the Art Deco Society of Virginia, the Humanities Research Center, the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, with additional support from Virginia Opera and Sticky Rice.

Founded in 2010 to explore how the distinctiveness of the South has been portrayed on screen, the Southern Film Festival brings together films and those involved in their making with constructive commentary. This year’s theme considers a diverse cross-section of Southern rebels from the Civil War to the present.

Dr. Kathy Merlock Jackson is Professor and Coordinator of Communication at Virginia Wesleyan College, where she teaches courses in media studies. Jackson kicked off the festival on Thursday at The Depot by discussing how the film, “Walt Disney’s Song of the South” (1946), relegated to the Disney vault for the last 25 years, portrays Uncle Remus’s tales through songs. This was Disney’s first combined live-action/animated film.

On Friday night “Heart O’ the Hills” played at the VMFA. The silent film, created in 1919 starring Mary Pickford, was a drama of family tensions and a battle over coal. The Hot Seats accompanied the film with live musical performances throughout the film.

“‘Heart O’ the Hills’ was my first silent movie,” said VCU sophomore Paria Ahmadi. “Usually, this film genre wouldn’t interest me but the live band brought a lot of character and liveliness to the film.”

Saturday three films aired. The first was “King Creole” at Sticky Rice Cafe. The 1958 film starred Elvis Presley as an aspiring nightclub singer on the French Quarter in New Orleans. Later that day, the 1959 film “Porgy and Bess” showed. “Porgy and Bess” is based on the 1934 opera of the same name, about a legless beggar and his quest to win the love of a woman.

To conclude the festival, the 1989 documentary “We Shall Overcome” was shown at the Grace Street Theater. Narrated by Harry Belafonte, the film traces the sources of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” from the Sea Islands of South Carolina to the 1963 March on Washington. Following the film was a live musical performance by the VCU Black Awakening Choir.

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