Today, on the 16th of December, two times Emmy Prize winner, Mr. Paul Saltzman visited KFU. The famous producer presented the documentary film “The Last White Knight” devoted to racism problems to KFU students. The Embassy of Canada in the RF assisted in arrangement of his visit to Kazan.
Being a young man, Mr. Paul Saltzman heard about a cruel murder of participants of the movement for civil rights, Messrs James E. Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, by Ku-Klux-Klan members. The killed struggled for the right of black-skinned citizens of the State of Mississippi, USA, to vote. Paul could not remain indifferent to this problem and went to Mississippi to joint Afro-Americans’ defenders. However Paul became a victim of Klansmen himself. In the small town of Greenwood he, as a white civil rights protector and member of Student Coordination Committee for Non-Violence, was attacked by four guys, one of them being Mr. Delay De La Beckwith, a white racist, segregationist and life member of Ku-Klux-Klan. He kicked Paul in his temple, but the latter managed to rise to his feet and escape.
Forty three years after this incident Mr. Saltzman decided to find Mr. Delay – he got upon an idea to shoot a documentary about the restless sixties in Mississippi. To Paul’s surprise, the racist agreed to meet with him and subsequently – to participate in the film shooting. During five years, starting from 2007, Paul and Delay were leading on-camera discussions and through all these years the producer was asking himself a painful question: “Is reconciliation possible?” Conversations between Paul and Delay form the mainstream of the film, which combines narration with graphic illustrations.
Delay De La Beckwith, a white racist, life member of Ku-Klux-Klan, the son of Delay De La Beckwith I, who was the founder of White Citizens’ Council, accused of murder of Medgar Evers, the leader of the National Association for Advancement of Coloured People in Mississippi (NAACP), appeared before the camera being a lonely man calmed down and worn out by life. He told Paul about his life. A gun was his favourite toy – his father taught him to shoot when he was four years old. His mother was crazy about cold arms and had problems with alcohol. Pretty often the drunk woman shot at her son and every time he managed to dodge and remain safe and sound by a miracle. Today Delay has children himself. But they don’t share his views and seem to avoid communicating with him.
In spite of a rough position he considers himself to be a Christian and believes in God. He calls Ku-Klux-Klan a nice Christian organization.
Father of Delay De La Beckwith was accused of murder of Medgar Evers, the legendary champion of black Americans’ rights, and died in prison in 2001. He worked in police and investigated cases connected with racism. The guilt of Delay De La Beckwith I was proved only 20 years later. In the sixties many law enforcement authority officers were Klansmen.
Not only Mr. Beckwith, but also Mr. Morgan Freeman, the famous actor born in Mississippi and still living there, as well as Mr. Harry Belafonte, Mr. Jimmy Travis and other people who have miraculously evaded lynching, are starring in the film…
The film ending is ambiguous: there are questions, but no answers. Each of the heroes remains unconvinced, while viewers have the right to put everything into place themselves.
After the viewing the audience got a chance to discuss filmmaker’s incentives, his ideas and goals to be sought, as well as acute problems raised by the author.
Many viewers showed interest in Mr. Saltzman’s work with The Beatles and the book “The Beatles in Rishikesh”. He also told the audience whom he would support in Sochi during a hockey match between Russia and Canada.
In conclusion he said: “In the film I wanted to unite what is in my brains with what is in my heart…”
Mr. Paul Saltzman is a writer, photographer, cinematographer, hockey player, two times Emmy Prize winner, living in Toronto. He is a movie producer and filmmaker, who had over 300 projects in cinema and on TV. The full-length documentary film (Prom Night in Mississippi) with Morgan Freeman starring in it has become his debut as a filmmaker. The film was included in the competitive program of Sundance film festival in 2009. His new documentary “The Last White Knight”, in which Delay De La Beckwith junior, Harry Belafonte and Morgan Freeman are starring, was shown at Toronto festival in 2012.