Purge This Land
Weaving the story and letters of radical American abolitionist John Brown and the attack on Harper’s Ferry with her own personal history, filmmaker Lee Ann Schmitt (The Last Buffalo Hunt, 2011) uses her signature essay style to create a profound portrait of America today. The narrated histories are told over striking images, shot on film, of the sites of racial violence, creating a haunting and poetic account of the past that is still very much a part of our present.
“Schmitt’s [film] abstains from going the educational route, preferring to point out how present the past still is in the United States. The casual way she intertwines her stories of casual racism (against her kids and partner) with historical facts, how her voice sounds detached, but the things she is saying are mind-piercing, all this causes Purge This Land to raise a level above more recent documentaries about the subject, like I Am Not Your Negro (2016).”—Sara Galvão, Critics Associated
“Lee Anne Schmitt’s Purge This Land tells us exactly what she—a white woman whose partner is black—is thinking and feeling. Schmitt’s captivating voice-over, which interweaves the story of abolitionist John Brown, episodes of racial violence, and glimpses into her personal life, [is] accompanied by vacated views of Detroit, Chicago, Virginia, and California. [Shot] on 16mm, these contemporary images, like her narrative, feel outside of time. Her point, of course, is that historical pain is present everywhere we look in America, even if we don’t see it. She dedicates the film to her son and it’s precisely this subjectivity that lends the film its political punch.”—Paul Dallas, IndieWire