Synopsis by Mark Deming
Documentary filmmaker Chantal Akerman traveled to the American South to make a film on life in the land that informed and influenced William Faulkner and James Baldwin, but shortly after she arrived, a shocking story began to dominate the headlines. In Jasper, Texas, James Byrd Jr., an African-American man, was brutally beaten by three white men, and then chained to the back of a truck and dragged three miles to his death. The focus of Akerman's film shifted dramatically, and Sud/South explores the reactions of people in Jasper to the this heinous crime, ranging from an emotional memorial service at a black church to a local lawman who wants people to know race is not a problem in Jasper, at least not compared to the economy. The film also looks into the actions of organized hate groups and the impact racism has had on this community in the past. Sud/South was shown as part of the Directors Fortnight series at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.