It was a long-awaited pleasure to cut my first film for the PBS series American Experience. Even better that it was this dark and thrilling tale of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in progressive North Carolina in the 1960s. I’m glad I got to cut this film for (fellow Tennesseean) producer/director Callie Wiser and feel that she crafted an intriguing and nuanced portrait of ‘the banality of evil’ in action, told mainly through the Carolina Klan’s charismatic leader, Bob Jones. It is easy to ascribe terrible deeds and attitudes to a morally “bad” other but in Klansville, USA, we see how hatred can take root in a disenfranchised population, left behind by social and economic changes.
And with that I’ll stop trying to sound smart and give you the description from the website where, at this time, the film can be viewed in its entirety:
Having been dormant for decades, the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) reemerged in the U.S. after the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision, gaining momentum in the U.S. as the civil rights movement grew. That the Klan would rise once again wasn’t surprising, but where the reincarnation took place was. North Carolina was long considered the most progressive southern state; its image was being burnished weekly on CBS by the enormously popular “The Andy Griffith Show.” In 1963, North Carolina salesman Bob Jones chartered what would become the largest Klan group in the country, which, under his leadership, grew to some ten thousand members. In the process, the group helped give the Tarheel State a new nickname: “Klansville, U.S.A.”