A Southern Movie Bonus: The “Welcome to Eclectic” Southern Documentary Sampler

Though many Americans encounter images and stories from modern Southern life through mainstream national news outlets, documentaries offer fuller and nuanced portraits and discussions of specific issues and people in Southern culture, offering viewers are more complex and thorough perspective on art, LGBTQ life, humor, food and farming, HIV, or rural schools. Below is a selected listing of documentaries from the last fifteen years, each of which explores an aspect of the modern South that some people might not have considered.

Fertile Ground (2020)


This new half-hour documentary, which aired on PBS on June 10, “takes a look at the extensive impact that industrial food systems currently have on Americans. The film follows advocates in Jackson, Mississippi who are using localized efforts to address food insecurity in under-served communities, shining a light on the potential for a healthier future through efforts to convert to communal, localized food systems.”

Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018)

Released to great acclaim a few years ago, the series of vignettes from everyday life is “composed of intimate and unencumbered moments of people in a community in Alabama’s Black Belt, [the film] offers an emotive impression of the Historic South.” 

Beauty is Embarrassing (2012)

“Part biography, part live performance, [the film] tells the story of this one-of-a-kind visual artist and raconteur” Wayne White, who is from Chattanooga, Tennessee and north Alabama]. White worked on the show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and on music videos for Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Gabriel.

deepsouth (2012)

“Beneath layers of history, poverty and now soaring HIV infections, four Americans redefine traditional Southern values to create their own solutions to survive.”

Eating Alabama (2012)

In search of a simpler life, a young couple [filmmaker and now podcaster Andrew Beck Grace and his wife] returns home to Alabama where they set out to eat the way their grandparents did— locally and seasonally.”

Mississippi: I Am (2012)

[The film] “examines the relatively new battle on the part of primarily young LGBT people to bring gay civil rights and visibility out in the open and beyond division.

Prom Night in Mississippi (2009)

“In 1997, Academy Award winning actor, Morgan Freeman, who lives in the Charleston, Mississippi community, offered to fund the first-ever integrated Senior Prom in the history of Charleston’s one high school. His offer was ignored. In 2008, Morgan offered again . . . the East Tallahatchie County School Board accepted.”

Mississippi Chicken (2007)

The film is a visually compelling exposé of the hardships and tragedies of undocumented Latin American immigrants in a rural Mississippi poultry town.” 

What Remains (2006)

The film “returns to follow the creation of Mann’s new seminal work: a photo series revolving around various aspects of death and decay. [ . . . ] Shown at home on her family farm in Virginia, she is surrounded by her husband and now-grown children, and her willingness to reveal her artistic process as it unfolds allows the viewer to gain exclusive entrance to her world.”

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