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Rosewood: Movie Summary & Analysis
A Film Report
The movie “Rosewood” is based on the 1923 massacre in Rosewood, Florida that claimed dozens of African American's lives. At a time when racial tension was incredibly high, the black members of a small segregated community found themselves unprotected from the hatred of the neighboring white men. When a white woman, Ms. Taylor, falsely blames a beating and rape on a black man, it leads to a mob out for blood. Many black people weren't given the due justice of the law and some considered them guilty just for the color of their skin.
"Rosewood" addresses the injustice served and potential chaos when a society fails to protect and serve all it's members equally. Throughout history people have found any excuse to validate the hate in their hearts, just like in the case of Ms. Taylor's claim. Her story was meant to protect herself from the consequences of her infidelity, but it gave an excuse and opportunity for a racist white group to carry out heinous acts of murder on any nearby African Americans.
The chaos shows how racism feeds off the hate and ill-understanding of people. The angry mob knew that the claim was likely untrue, but without too much resistance they were able to act out on their emotions without consequence. Father's were teaching their boys about race superiority from God, and continuing to spread the idea of a vigilante sort of justice. The danger of this way of thinking became widespread as hate groups such as the KKK roamed the U.S. without much resistance from the government. African American's found themselves unprotected from this uncontrolled hate in a time when social change wasn't welcomed openly.
The events of Rosewood shed light on the corruption of the local government in Florida. They recorded the number of deaths in Rosewood to be 8 people dead, two whites, six blacks. This number's in direct conflict with the accounts of the survivor's, who place the number between 40 and 150 African American's. Deaths went unrecorded and murder went unpunished. Justice could not be carried out where there was no legal protection for black people, they were forced to protect themselves. Men, women, and children were murdered in their own homes pointlessly. It brought attention to the need for equality and justice through the due process of law, and shined light on the overwhelming disdain many white people had for African American's at the time.
Throughout the movie "Rosewood," one of the white supremacist makes it a point to teach his son that he's superior to any black person. He is told not to play with the workers son because he's black. The boy seems to have little understanding of this mentality. The father forces his son to look at lynchings and murders, telling him that it makes him into a man. In a scene towards the end of the film a mass grave is dug, filled with the innocent bodies of the community. The father clears a path to this grave so his boy can witness the toll. To his father's disapproval the boy states, “There're babies in there.” His dad slaps him across the face for the comment saying, "They're all the same." At this moment the child has come to understand the hate and lack of humanity dwelling in his fathers heart. He's forced to make a decision to follow the ways of his father, or go down his own path.
In the final scene with the father and son, the boy packs a nap sack and runs away, yelling at his dad, “I hate you!” The boys experience of growing up with black and white children gave him a sense of human equality. The once innocent boy, was forced to witness grave injustice against an entire people. His experiences gave him the real truths of life to make a critical decision... follow his father or to leave. The boy was obviously greatly effected by the violence, at the crossroads, the child did what he knew was right and refused the teachings of racism.
In the movie "Rosewood" personalizing the fear of the victims to specific characters created an understanding of what they were forced to deal with individually. There was no trial, there were no questions asked. As they were approached by the angry mob, they had no recourse but to run. Those who tried to explain their innocents were merely killed and thrown to the side in search of the next. The brutal violence was inescapable even in their own homes. Even historically just about their whole town was burnt to the ground. The film's imagery leaves the viewer with a sense of how dark the situation was and how thick the racial tension was between the two communities. The escalation of the situation seemed to get out of hand rather quickly. It showed how even as freed citizen's they were still far from equality or any sense of justice. As houses burnt and people were hung, It showed how difficult it was to find any protection.
I better understand the essence and motivation behind the civil rights movement after watching this film. There was no one to defend them but themselves. The local government was so corrupt that they led the attacks on the families. Unity and courage were the only means to survival. They found it true that without demanding equality and unifying, they would be destroyed. Racism and hate will always exist, but in order for a culture to be successful those evil forces must be overpowered with justice and the reasoning of law. In order to obtain this freedom figures in history had to rise up through persecution and stand for equality. The victims of the Rosewood massacre set a precedent for other courageous African American's to live fearlessly and fight the rampant racism of the time.
Though the movie "Rosewood" is based on a historical event many of the characters are fictional. The main character Mr. Mann is one of those created by the writer. He comes into the scene to lead the people from the grips of evil. Though many of the characters are fictional they provide important themes to the events in 1923. Mr. Mann served his country in The Great War only to return to fight the same countrymen he defended. Though the events such as the train escape didn't really happen, it added to the overall drama and power of the film.
I really enjoyed this movie from start to finish. I thought the acting was compelling, and the visuals worked up a lot of emotion. From the beginning there was a lot of tension between the two communities. Ms. Taylor's character, who falsely claimed a black man raped her, created a stir within the area. As she cried in the street the two black girls who witnessed the truth sat in disbelief. This scene was powerful, as I saw the lack of power these two woman had even though they held the truth. It created the basis for a very intense rising action. The angry response from the town left me in shock as they didn't seek justice, but blood. It was enough to keep me engaged, wondering how the people could escape the grips of the irrationality and injustice. As the situation escalated so did the action and adventure.
Mr. Mann's character supplied the movie with a heroic type figure. His even tempered confidence left me thinking everything was going to be ok. The gunslinger had some awesome shooting scenes where he stood fearlessly dual yielding pistols dropping racist after racist. My favorite scene is where they hung him from a tree, but using his brute strength and determination he tightens his neck long enough to escape. The action scenes and intense situations combined with the historical reality left me intrigued and captivated throughout the film.
© 2009 Brian M. Loewer All rights reserved.