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Our Mockingbird

2015
Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Sandra Jaffe
Directed by Sandra Jaffe
DVD, color, 65 min. (DVD also includes 34 min. “classroom” version and 17 min. of extras)
High School - General Adult
Theatre, Race Relations, and Civil Rights


Reviewed by Kimberly Poppiti, Dowling College, Oakdale, NY

Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 7/26/2016

Our Mockingbird documents a high school theatre production of To Kill a Mockingbird. Filmmakers introduce the story with the following written description on screen in the early moments of the film: “In Birmingham, Alabama two high schools, one black, one white, collaborate on the play To Kill a Mockingbird.” The film proceeds to present a unique look at this interesting and timely high school theatre collaboration. The focus is on exploring both the experience of the students involved in the production and on tracing a representative historical overview of race relations and civil rights in the US, using significant events that transpired in Birmingham and within To Kill a Mockingbird presenting a microcosm of the larger picture.

Our Mockingbird explores race, class and, to a degree, gender. The central question posed and explored in regard to these issues is: “Have our hearts changed?” An accessible exploration of the central question and issues is presented. The filmmakers smoothly interweave rehearsal and production footage, film and book excerpts, period music (some performed by the Fairfield High School Choir), and historical photographs and documents, with video and audio excerpts from numerous interviews (with members of the cast and crew, as well as with related professionals and significant public figures). The result is an engaging and relevant representative overview of civil rights in Birmingham, from the 1930s through the present as viewed through the contemporary lens of this play production.

Our Mockingbird effectively achieves its stated goals of investigating the potential of the play production to “change the hearts” of those involved in it. It does not provide a detailed record of the collaborative play production process, but this was not a central intent of the filmmakers. This film is a useful resource for the study of the civil rights movement and of the practical uses of educational theatre in the classroom. Our Mockingbird will also be a useful adjunct to the classroom study of To Kill a Mockingbird and will serve specifically to enhance student understanding of both the historical significance of the book and its continued relevance in contemporary society.