Son of the South stars Lucas Till as Bob Zellner, Lucy Hale, Lex Scott Davis, Brian Dennehy, Julia Ormond, Cedric the Entertainer, Sharonne Lanier, Dexter Darden, Jake Abel, and Ludi Lin. An adaptation of Zellner's 2008 memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement, Son of the South was produced by Spike Lee and written, edited and directed by Barry Alexander Brown and will be in cinemas 20 May 2021.
Set during the sixties civil rights movement, it's based on the true story of Bob Zellner, raised in Alabama and son of a Methodist minister and grandson to a Klansman, he is forced to face the rampant racism of his own culture. He defies his family and white Southern norms to embrace the fight against social injustice, repression and violence to change the world he was born into. Zellner was SNCC's (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee - a civil-rights group formed to give younger Black people more of a voice in the civil rights movement) first white field secretary.
While attending Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, an all-white Methodist school, Zellner and four other students (later known as the Huntingdon Five) were given a sociology assignment to research solutions to racial problems in the South and that's where the problem began for them. They began attending civil rights meetings with Black students and it was at these meetings that Zellner met SNCC members for the first time. They escaped when the law turned up, but not really, as four of them got expelled except for Bob because of his grandfather's connections with the KKK.
It's always difficult to watch a film about social injustice and lack of human rights, especially if you're all about all humans being equal. It makes you cringe to experience what you see on the big screen and frustrated at the sight of human behaviour at its worst. The scenes of violence were savage but well left and does make the impact intended. This is no Mississippi Burning but overall pretty watchable if you don't critique it to bits. Zellner is depicted as a little reluctant at first, and Lucas Till easily brings across his naivety to the big screen. Overall, the performances are pretty good, but the script lets them down.
Archival news footage and scenes were convincingly intertwined but in general, the film is not convincing enough that a movie about Bob Zeller was necessary at all. Definitely not intriguing enough to make a statement that he was a big deal in the movement, or make an obvious statement that hits home - he was fighting to establish not just the rights of others, but his own right to fight for what he believed in. Shame, because so much more could have been fleshed out to make a real statement about the central character, who is one of the most influential leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, from the 1960s to today.