Synopsis by Mark Deming
Some might say that the town of Jasper, TX, is an example of how much progress has been made in race relations in the South and West over the past 50 years. A community whose population is divided almost equally between African-American and white residents, Jasper has a black mayor, and an integrated city council and police department. However, it soon became obvious that there was still a deep well of racial disharmony in Jasper on June 7, 1998, when James Byrd Jr., an African-American, was brutally beaten by three white men (John William King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Allen Berry), who then tied his body to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him down a gravel road for three miles, until he was dead. This shocking crime made headlines around the world, and documentary filmmakers Marco Williams and Whitney Dow came to Jasper to make a film about the incident, and about the sort of city where such an event could occur. Williams, who is African-American, interviewed 15 black citizens of Jasper, while Dow, who is Caucasian, interviewed a like number of white residents, and the differing perspectives on both sides of the issue are brought together as King, Brewer, and Berry are tried for their crimes. The Two Towns of Jasper was shown in competition at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
hate-crime, race-relations, murder, racism, social-issues, trial [courtroom]