Prom Night in Mississippi

 
Inspiring docu tackles a tough topic: racism.
  • Review Date: July 20, 2009
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 91 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie reinforces the idea that people are just people -- no matter the color of their skin -- and that change is truly possible if you work for it.

Positive role models

Most of the student leaders who support the integrated prom -- both Caucasian and African American -- have admirable qualities. For example, one student-athlete is not only a state champion power lifter who's involved in softball, basketball, track, and church; she also takes college-level algebra, has skipped a grade, and holds the office of National Honor Society president.

Violence

An archival image of a dead African-American man hanging from a tree is shown while a student talks about another hanging that took place in the town square. Another student describes a verbal fight between a Caucasian student and an African-American student that escalated due to the Caucasian student's allegations that the other student threatened her with a gun; another recounts a fight that broke out at the "white" prom between two students and a parent, who slapped one of the rabblerousers. At the integrated prom, male and female students engage in a dance battle that looks violent (ie., it involves some body pushing/intimidation) but isn’t meant to be.

Sex

Some students discuss having sex, with a focus on the perceived "fear" of interracial sex. Another student talks about having had both African-American and Caucasian “lovers” and asserts that they’re all the same; it’s what’s inside that counts.

Language

Audible words include mild terms like "ass" and "hell," as well as a few unbleeped instances of "f--k." The "N" word is also used quite a bit, both as a hate and a non-hate term.

Consumerism

The soundtrack includes songs by popular artists like Lil Wayne, Usher, Feist, and One Republic. Rap act Kamikaze plays at the prom.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A character describes underage drinking in a limousine on the night of the "white" prom, saying students were "getting tipsy, getting crazy." Another student claims that some students drink and "get drunk every weekend."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary's frank discussion of a sensitive topic -- racism -- includes some unbleeped swearing and racist language, including regular use of "N" word by both African Americans and Caucasians. Some violent acts are described, including fist fights between students, and there's a brief shot of a particularly grizzly photo of a dead man hanging from a tree. Students also talk about underage sex and drinking, but most of the teens who are prominently featured are positive role models.

What's the story?

Filmmaker Paul Saltzman captures history in the making in PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI, an honest yet inspirational documentary about lingering racism in the deep South and a small-town Mississippi high school's first integrated prom. The kicker, of course, is that this momentous occasion takes place in 2008 -- not the 1950s. To give graduating seniors an incentive to partipate, local celebrity Morgan Freeman presents the idea as a challenge and offers to pay all costs. In the end, it's a story about change and the pockets of resistance that try to stop it.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

When it comes to content, Saltzman respects viewers' intelligence by
refusing to candy coat the issue of racism, presenting candid comments
from students who are all too willing to talk about it. For example, one African-American student describes a humilating incident in which
the police pulled him and a Caucasian friend over, claiming they smelled
marijuana. The cops made the first student drop his pants in public, while they left his friend
alone. Another Caucasian student shares her father's reaction to the idea of an integrated prom: "N---ers ain't gonna be rubbin' up against my daughter."

Prom Night in Mississippi might not be as zippy as some other documentaries about high school life (including American Teen), but it's both sobering and refreshing in its honesty, making it a must-see for families with teens who are mature enough to handle the film's complex themes.

Families can talk about...

  • How do stereotypes play into racism? Have you ever made a snap judgment about someone based on the color of their skin -- or anything else about their outward appearance?

  • Why is the South so often associated with racism? Do you think that -- particularly with the election of Barack Obama -- racism is less of an issue in the United States than it used to be? Why or why not?

  • What if Morgan Freeman hadn't presented students with the idea of an integrated prom and offered to pay for it? How long do you think it would have taken for the school to integrate proms on its own? Do you think the fact that the process was covered by a film crew influenced the outcome in any way?

Movie details

DVD release date:January 26, 2010
Cast:Chasidy Buckley, Morgan Freeman
Director:Paul Saltzman
Studio:New Video Group
Genre:Documentary
Run time:91 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Prom Night in Mississippi was written by

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Teen, 14 years old Written byebzallday16 July 26, 2009
age 10+
 

Good for all ages.

I love this documentary. This was one of the best. It had a very good and strong message. It taught you about racism. I personally think this was a great documentary for all ages.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

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