Context can change everything. The first 15 minutes or so of Akerman's documentary offer a series of everyday shots of a town in the Deep South. Someone mows the lawn in front of a church, people go about their business. There's no narration until the reminiscences of the black population begin to reveal the details of the 1998 James Byrd murder, when a group of white supremacists dragged a black man to his death behind their truck. Pieces of his body were found along the three-mile route. Suddenly, the film's banal images of Jasper, Texas, acquire a whole different resonance of horror and racial tension. Extraordinary footage of Byrd's memorial service at the modest local church ups the emotional ante, while Akerman's final, long-held shot takes us right along the death road, almost every inch of the way. An image which would normally seem so ordinary becomes something else again, with every second of the journey screaming out in pain.
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