Sounder (1972)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama, Coming-of-Age, Animal Picture  |   Release Date - Sep 24, 1972 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - G
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Review by Dan Jardine

Director Martin Ritt -- who was blacklisted in the 1950s for his association with the Communist Party -- specializes in intimate, earthy southern dramas (Murphy's Romance, Norma Rae, Hud), and Sounder is one of his best works. Taj Mahal's sparse blues score combines with John A. Alonzo's stirring cinematography to create the movie's palpable sense of mood and setting (shot on location in Louisiana). Despite the incessantly arrogant prejudice of most of the film's white characters, the family's solidarity in the face of intimidating odds -- poverty, racism, injustice -- gives the movie a humanistic, optimistic center. The message that familial support, education, and inter-racial familiarity will provide the means to escape from oppression clearly struck a chord with early-1970s audiences. Three excellent performances infuse the film with great heart and believability: Cicely Tyson as the family matriarch, Paul Winfield as the imprisoned father, and Kevin Hooks as the elder son who is encouraged to dream of escape. Sounder was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay (Lonne Elder III), Actor (Winfield) and Actress (Tyson).