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Monday, July 5, 2021

The Neutral Ground - Documentary Review


The Documentary: The Neutral Ground

The Director: CJ Hunt

The Story: In December 2015, the New Orleans City Council voted to remove four Confederate monuments from public grounds. A forceful group of critics protested the decision, and fearing retaliation, no crew would agree to remove the statues.

The Interview:
Director and producer CJ Hunt was kind enough to take time to join the podcast right in the middle of The Neutral ground's festival run and PBS debut. The film will be available to watch for free on PBS as the season premiere episode of the POV documentary series beginning on July 5th.



The Review:
You know, you feel like you know what's going on in the world and what people are capable of when it comes to racism, colonialism, and generational indoctrination especially with what we have seen over the last year but then a documentary like this comes out and still manages to be shocking, perplexing, and at times baffling. The way this country is divided in it's fundamental beliefs about slavery, race, and freedom can be quite astonishing when you see the faces and hear the thoughts of people who have varying mindsets and, even when you know the how and why someone thinks the way they do, it can still make your head hurt.

"How can you scream Black Lives Matter when everything around you in the city says they don't." - Michael “Quess” Moore of Take 'em Down Nola

CJ Hunt, who is a comedian by trade among his many talents, set out to cover a story in New Orleans about the struggles of getting some confederate monuments taken down and ended up going down a rabbit hole of racism so deeply embedded in southern culture that people are so on board with what they believe that even documented facts can not sway them. I mean seriously, he showed people where the secession documents for multiple southern states specifically talked about slavery as a primary talking point and they all just said nope, slavery isn't that bad, it's just kind of bad and not a reason to separate the country.

So, how do you change people's minds? I think this documentary shows how that might not be the goal and that maybe we should be looking at educating the next generation. After the events of the last year, there has been an awakening and a reckoning of sorts and we're all beginning to learn some of the hard truths about America, it's people, and it's history. What started as a comedic documentation of the civil proceedings turned into an exploration not just of why people are so steadfast about keeping these monuments up but it seemed like Hunt himself was also sorting out why this was so important to him.


The Verdict:
The Neutral Ground is a documentary that should be shown in classrooms and seminars and film festivals and just about anywhere a movie can be shown so people can learn just how systemic of a problem racism is and maybe we can start to turn the corner just a little.


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