POV: Two Towns of Jasper (PBS)
2003 | P.O.V./American Documentary, Inc., Independent Television Service (ITVS), National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC)
Two Towns of Jasper is a provocative documentary focused on the 1998 hate-crime murder of James Byrd, Jr. Through the extraordinary efforts of filmmakers Marco Williams and Whitney Dow, the program goes beyond a simple account of the sadistic killing of Mr. Byrd to uncover a subtle, yet continuing racial divide in America. Dow, who is white, interviewed white residents of Jasper while Williams, who is black, talked with black citizens. Two different perspectives on the state of race relations in Jasper emerge in the process. The use of segregated crews, filming over the course of the trials of the three men charged with murdering Mr. Byrd, enabled the filmmakers more easily to elicit straightforward comments. Their questions not only addressed the murder of James Byrd, but more extensively, personal feelings about race relations in Jasper, Texas. Two very different viewpoints emerge—from disbelief that such a crime could occur, to the recognition that James Byrd’s murder is a manifestation of the racial tension that is always beneath the surface. Executive Producers Cara Mertes of P.O.V. and Sally Jo Fifer of ITVS, along with Producer/Directors Whitney Dow and Marco Williams, deliver a forceful story of one town’s tragedy, which, unfortunately, could have occurred anywhere. For illustrating how race relations have changed, yet sadly remain the same, a Peabody is awarded to Two Towns of Jasper.