PBS released earlier this year what is one of its most intriguing documentaries of the year in Spies of Mississippi. Now the network will release the “companion” program to Spies of Mississippi next week in a new episode of American Experience. American Experience: Freedom Summer will be released on DVD next Tuesday, June 24th. This latest program centers on the civil rights movement of 1964 that was centered on Mississippi. American Experience: Freedom Summer is an excellent companion to the previously released documentary in that it goes into even more depth than that program. That is the first aspect of this program that makes it well worth the watch. Making it even more interesting is the use of vintage footage from the Freedom Summer. Sealing the deal for the program is its writing and editing. Writer/director Stanley Nelson and editor Aljernon Tunsil are both deserving of applause for making the roughly two hour program pass by with ease without losing viewers along the way. This factor along with the in-depth stories and vintage footage make American Experience: Freedom Summer a piece that everybody should see at least once this year.
American Experience: Freedom Summer is a program well worth the watch by any viewer first and foremost because it picks up where Spies of Mississippi left off. While that documentary focused primarily on the efforts on a covert group to try and keep African Americans from registering to vote in Mississippi, this latest feature on the Freedom Summer goes into even more depth. It focuses on more than just that one aspect of the Freedom Summer. Rather, it focuses on the Freedom Summer in whole. It presents the movement from its roots to its end. Along the way, it also connects the Freedom Summer to its effects on the country as a whole. The whole thing is told by those that organized the Freedom Summer movement and by those that it affected. It adds a whole new layer to the story that was started by Spies of Mississippi, making the program in whole even more worth the watch.
Mississippi’s civil rights movement in the summer of 1964 was one of the most important cultural events in America’s history. That is made clear through the combination of American Experience: Freedom Summer and Spies of Mississippi. The additional layers of information added to the story of that movement here are just part of what makes this program well worth the watch. Making the program even more interesting and in depth is the use of vintage footage to illustrate the story. Actual footage of the events that happened during the Freedom Summer is included throughout the program in place of re-enactments. The use of re-enactments would have been the easy way out. But those behind the program didn’t go that route. It’s nice to see that this avenue was taken. It serves to pull in viewers even more and keep them engaged along the way. This plays directly into the last factor of the program’s success. That factor in question is its collective writing and editing.
The use of vintage footage, and of interviews with those directly connected to the Freedom Summer movement are both integral to the success of American Experience: Freedom Summer. Just as integral to the feature’s overall success is the program’s writing and editing. Everything included in this program had to be scripted in a certain order. That order in turn had to be edited so as to keep viewers’ attention throughout the course of the program’s approximately two-hour run time. Writer/director Stanley Nelson and editor Aljernon Tunsil both did just that. There is not one moment over the course of the program’s two-hour run time during which the program loses audiences’ attention. The pair is to be applauded for such expert execution of their job duties. Because both individuals went to painstaking lengths to make the program interesting, it makes viewers want to take in the vintage footage and the stories told by those that were directly linked to the Freedom Summer movement. All of these factors together make American Experience: Freedom Summer a presentation that is just as valuable in the classroom as it is in the living room. It proves in the end to be a candidate for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new documentaries.
American Experience: Freedom Summer will be available next Tuesday, June 24th on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34894696&cp=&sr=1&kw=american+experience+freedom+summer&origkw=American+Experience%3A+Freedom+Summer&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience, http://twitter.com/AmExperiencePBS, and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.