If we could only believe, truly believe, Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary: “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” Read the newspapers, watch the news, listen to the stories. Hate still permeates the country . . . actually the world. Sometimes acts of hate and horror become the subject of must-see films and documentaries. Witness “Hate Crimes in the Heartland.” Two horrendous crimes reverberate across decades and racial divides in the compelling new film from Emmy-winning Rachel Lyon. Arriving during a period in which racial tensions are rising in the U.S., this important work comes to digital download and DVD from Virgil Films on January 12.
“Hate Crimes in the Heartland” is both a documentary film and community outreach project. Like no other documentary exploring this topic, it portrays the shocking violence rooted in America’s history of racial hatred through the lens of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where two hate crimes, over 90 years apart, are impacting human rights, education and communities today. This is an in-depth analysis of current and past hate crimes in our country, bravely looking at horrific actions with a view to reconciliation.
The film begins in Tulsa, where, in 2012, two white males drove through the African-American neighborhood of Greenwood targeting blacks at random, killing three and leaving two others in critical condition. Filmmaker Lyon follows the events surrounding the murders, the social media uproar, the hunt for the killers and the capture of two suspects who were charged with first-degree murder and faced the death penalty.
This contemporary hate crime is then compared to the infamous 1921 Tulsa race riot, in which an armed white mob attacked and burned down the same Greenwood neighborhood, known at the time as “Black Wall Street” since it was considered America’s wealthiest black community. More than 90 years later, these two crimes reflect the racial animosity that defines much of modern American culture as laid bare by the Ferguson, Charleston and Trayvon Martin cases.
“Hate Crimes in the Heartland” explores these events, exposing an all-American city forever divided, and revealing the dangerous connections between the media, power, race and justice. Among the many esteemed interviewees in the film is the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Rachel Lyon has produced 65 feature films, movies-for-television, feature documentaries and limited series, but this film may be her most important as she continues focusing on such critical global issues.