(Super 8mm color, 82 min., 2007)
In 2004, Anita Grabowski, our two dogs and I all moved to Mississippi for the summer. Anita was in the early stages of setting up a workers’ center for poultry workers in the state, and I was trying to figure out how to create a film from her story and the stories of the many fascinating people related to her work. By the end of the summer–and four-hundred rolls of Super 8mm film later–we had shot Mississippi Chicken.
The film was funded in large part by a Princess Grace Award, Austin Film Society’s Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund, the George H. Mitchell Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, a Carole Fielding Student Grant from UFVA, and a Motion Picture Film Stock Grant from Kodak.
Mississippi Chicken premiered at the 2007 Miami International Film Festival, and later that year it was nominated by IFP for a Gotham Award for “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You.” Learn more by visiting the Mississippi Chicken Web site, by reading my Mississippi Chicken blog entries, or by viewing clips from the film on my reel. See a complete list of Mississippi Chicken screenings on my cv. Buy the DVD here.
“Behind the docu’s deceptive simplicity, a complex sound/image dynamic is at work. While conversations on the soundtrack contribute to the ongoing narrative, the camera wanders around picking up on whatever momentarily catches its interest…‘Chicken’ creeps up on the viewer and, by the final credits, insinuates a lot of peripheral information that somehow adds up to a very unique experience.”
“A scathing documentary about the plight of immigrant laborers recruited to the South to work in poultry factories…“Mississippi Chicken” is a wrenching look at what it’s like at the bottom of the labor food chain. Shot on 8mm, the film has a gorgeous, saturated, old home-movie look that brings the heat of the southern summer to life on the screen.”
“…first-time feature director John Fiege’s textural and nostalgic Super-8 focuses his effort on gritty appreciation of milieu and moment. Immediate concerns here often overwhelm the newcomer’s attempts to build a future on land haunted by its past as the most contested battleground of the civil rights struggle…Captured in saturated colors and dancing grain, the film’s patient and precise observation is immersive without floating off into arty impressionism.”
“Like no other film I know of, it is an unforgettable look at the underbelly of the New South and what it takes for the rest of us to enjoy our grilled chicken sandwiches. It combines the epic scope of William Faulkner, the gritty, unadorned honesty of Italian Neorealism, and the stunning reportage of Edward R. Murrow’s Harvest of Shame.”
- Charles Ramírez Berg,
Distinguished Professor, University of Texas at Austin