A colleague and I were discussing the importance (and the ability) of documentary filmmakers who living with their subjects. It brought John Fiege’s Mississippi Chicken to mind. Mississippi Chicken is a rich, intimate tapestry of lives thus far disregarded by the mainstream media. The film takes the viewer into the lives of a Latin American immigrant population in a small poultry town in the New South. It explores the ongoing difficulties they face while documenting the increasing attempts to redress the balance by community organizers. Living with the people and listening to their stories over the course of one summer, this unique documentary builds contrasting lyrical vignettes of everyday life with the ever-present pressures and injustices faced by its community.
I also need to note that this might be the first documentary I’ve posted that featured the death of an animal, please correct me if I’m wrong. I bring this point up because in the course of teaching documentaries I notices that a high number of documentaries I show my class feature the death of an animal. As a vegetarian/vegan I hate the thought of watching an animal die, but I have this uncanny knack for somehow showing my students films that involve violence to animals. Even when I think I’m showing a film absent of animal violence or death, wham it shows up. It’s like my mind blocks it out. Though I suspect many filmmakers feature death in their films because consciously or subconsciously it allows them to address an aspect of human existence we all must face, without exactly forcing viewers to contemplate their own fate.