When you think of the early seventies you get images of many things. But rarely do you think of civil rights and the Klan. It is sad to consider that a decade after the civil rights movement that there would still be sections of our “advanced” society that still treated people cruelly and unfairly simply due to the color of their skin. But sadly it was in full force and the new film, BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME recounts one small North Carolina society’s march and stand against hatred and injustice. Based on the true story and book by prize-winning author and scholar Timothy Tyson it recounts his life as a white child watching his family and community try and help bring piece to that part of the state.
Vernon Tyson (Rick Schroder) is the new minister at an all white church in Oxford NC. He has taught his family that all people are created equal but finds that his new parishioners are far from that mindset. Ben Chavis (Nate Parker) is a motivating black teacher at the local high school. When his cousin is murdered by a prominent white family with little or no repercussions Ben starts a peaceful march to the state capitol. Even this does little to change the circumstances and things go from bad to worse.
This movie tells a powerful story and shines a light on what is a very dark time in our nation’s history. You watch these events and wonder how any human being could behave with such malice and ignorance. In the line of films like Mississippi Burning this one will have your blood boiling and even 40 years later you want to see justice served to those who behaved so cowardly and with such disregard for right and wrong. But it also shows what can happen when those who have been wronged join forces and stand up against tyranny. It is a film about finding your self worth regardless of the actions of those around you.
Sadly, the story line does little to help the sub-par acting and lack of direction. It plays more like an ABC Sunday night movie or a Lifetime Channel Special. Schroder is embarrassing and never does get a grasp on the accent or the character. I felt like I was watching him give a bad stage performance. The scenes with him take the movie completely out of its element and cause it to lose credibility. This one needed a very strong performance by its leading cast and unlike Mississippi Burning, never gets it.
BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME is rated PG-13 for an intense scene of violence, thematic material involving racism, and for language. It is safe for those 15 and up. These films need to be seen regardless of the weak spots. If nothing else as a reminder of how far we have come but more importantly how much farther we still need to go. It would be a shame if in the year 2050 people looked back on us today and saw little change. I give it 3 out of 5 gospel hymns. Unfortunately it doesn’t reach near the heights as a film that it should.