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Watch Trailer: Doc "The Contradictions of Fair Hope" Explores Past & Present Rural Alabama 'Benevolent' Society (PAFF '12)

by Vanessa Martinez
February 14, 2012 6:27 PM
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Directed by S. Epatha Merkerson (actress - Law & Order, Lackawanna Blues) and Rockell Mecalf, the documentary The Contradictions of Fair Hope will be premiering at the Pan African Film Festival this month.  Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, the documentary examines the history of "The Fair Hope Benevolent Society," established in rural Alabama prior to slave emancipation in efforts to aid the African American communties. The annual "Foot Wash" event raises funds for the descendants of the initial founders; the documentary examines the contradictions between the original purpose and the "morally ambiguous" nature of the event's activities in recent years.

Here's more from the film's website:

July 1865. Over 4 million slaves have been freed. Forced to roam the antebellum countryside, many of them are ill prepared and unable to cope with the realities of their newfound freedom. This documentary examines a little known aspect of American history, when newly freed slaves throughout the South formed “benevolent societies” to respond to the abject hunger, illness and the fear of a pauper’s grave.

The documentary sets the stage in rural Alabama, prior to Emancipation, and traces the development, struggles, contributions and gradual loss of tradition of one of the last remaining African American benevolent societies, known as “The Fair Hope Benevolent Society” in Uniontown, Alabama.

Through gripping human stories of some of the last surviving society members and interviews with historians and local residents, the film provides an unprecedented look at the complex and morally ambiguous world of Fair Hope juxtaposed against the worldly pleasures of what has become known as the annual “Foot Wash” celebration.

Take a look at the trailer below:

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  • Bonnie Hauck | March 12, 2013 1:49 PMReply

    I heard Ms. Merkerson and Mr. Mecalf interview on whyy "Radio Times". The trailer here did not tell me enough, but the text/liner notes(?) did as I only heard the last part of radio interview. I look forward to the film. I see it in memory of Mrs. Ruth Harper. Thank you.

  • Tamara | February 14, 2012 9:35 PMReply

    Very interesting.

  • Darkan | February 14, 2012 9:08 PMReply

    About time you guys featured this. It's one of the best documentary's on the film festival circuit this year. It's won a grip of awards already. Everyone must see this!

  • Cynthia | February 14, 2012 8:22 PMReply

    Trailer doesn't give me much but I'm definitely interested.

  • tracy | March 14, 2013 8:01 PM

    I grew up in that part of alabama where this film took place. I've been to the footwash. its a sight to see. What use to be a religious thing for blacks turned into a big party every year in september. Its in the blackbelt reigion of alabama.Its about 70% black. There isnt much to do in that area as for as recreation so when that time of the year come they party like there is no tomorow,but its a good thing this film came out so it can educated the people about the rich history in that part of the country.

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