Mississippi Burning directed by Alan Parker is a film set in the mid 1960’s. It was set in the time of the Civil Rights Movement and throughout the film it is shown how badly coloured people were discriminated against during those times. The major theme in the film is racism and segregation between the white and the coloured people in Jessup County. The director has developed this theme by using different techniques such as having characters with different personalities and authority, by using various film techniques and by setting the film in a particular location.
Parker explores the theme of racism through the characters. The two main characters in the film are Agent Rupert Anderson who is played by Gene Hackman and Agent Alan Ward played by Williem Dafoe. Agent Anderson is an older, wiser character and likes to investigate cases the way he was taught whereas Agent Ward is younger and likes to complete cases differently. For example, in the diner scene Agent Ward went and sat with the coloured people as there were no seats left in the white section but Agent Anderson didn’t follow.
Other characters in the film are Deputy Pell (Brad Dourif) and Sheriff Stuckey (Gailard Sartain). These two characters discriminate against coloured people the most. Parker shows this by making the two characters rude and arrogant. Both Stuckey and Pell were part of the KKK who scared and killed black people to help with the segregation of the coloured and white people. (Rest of America don’t mean jack shit.
You in Mississippi now. – Sheriff Stuckey.) Sheriff Stuckey said this because he believes that because he is in Mississippi the rules are different from those of other states in America.
Parker used different film techniques throughout the film such as camera angles, music and different clothing worn by the characters. In the film Parker used camera angles such as extreme wide shot. An example of when extreme wide shot was used was at the start of the film when we see the car that the civil rights workers are in and then three cars behind them. Another angle used was close up, for example when Frank Bailey (Michael Rooker) shot the civil rights worker in the head. The last camera angle used was over the shoulder shot for example when Agent Ward and Agent Anderson are in the car. Parker used the over the shoulder shot to make us feel like we are also in the car they would shoot the camera over the shoulder of whoever the person was talking to. Another film technique used was music.
To show that something bad was about to happen Parker in the background had low drum beats playing. For example, in the first few scenes where the cars were driving along the road Parker had the low drum beats playing to add suspense and to show that the civil rights workers were about to be killed. Another technique used in the film was the different clothing worn by the characters. To show how the coloured people were treated compared to the whites, the coloured people wore old and dirty clothes while the whites wore new, well-kept clothes. Agent Ward also wears a suit and with glasses to portray an image of him being serious and professional whereas Agent Anderson wore a short sleeved shirt with his tie loosely worn to portray an image of him being more laid back.
The film was set in Jessup County, Mississippi in the 1960’s. To help show how badly segregation was in the 1960’s Alan Parker made many scenes where the coloured and white people were treated differently, for example, in the diner and the houses that the coloured and the whites lived in. In the diner scene, the coloured people had a separate place at the back where they were to eat because they didn’t deserve to eat in the same place as the white people. Also the coloured people had houses that were wooden and lived on farms whereas the white people had proper houses situated in the town. In conclusion, Alan Parker used many techniques to show racism throughout the film. The different techniques used to show the theme of racism were the personalities of the main characters, the camera angles and music chosen and the setting of the film.
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