Mississippi Burning

Report
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AS 90381 - Investigate a language or
literature topic and present information in
written form. 3 (Internal)
AS 90379 - Analyse a visual or oral text. 2
(External)
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Learn
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The title
The name of the director.
The names of the characters.
The set: where and when the text is based.
The plot – the beginning and the ending and key
events in between
 The themes.
 The techniques used in the film, and what effect they
have.
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Identify and analyse film language accurately;
Analyse film image and sequences in detail;
Analyse and discuss the use of narrative techniques, including motifs,
transitions and editing;
Analyse the way visual and verbal film techniques are used to reveal plot,
setting, character;
Use film terminology accurately and with confidence;
Discuss the way the film presents themes;
Write an essay about an aspect of the text
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Montage – A fast moving sequence in which many shots
are combined – can be used to sum up a long process.
Special effects – Very important in this film. Computer
programming and trick photography used to show things
are not always as they seem.
Mise en scene – How a shot is put together. What can you
see, what is in focus, where is everything in the shot.
Zoom – Zoom in, Zoom out – can move closer or further
away from an object.
Pan – camera movement either right to left or left to right.
Sound effects – sounds other than words.
Sound mix – combination of dialogue, music and sound
effects to make up the sound track.
Camera angles and shots
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Extreme long shot or establishing shot
Long shot
Full shot
Medium or mid shot
Close-up
Extreme close-up
Overshot or overhead shot
High angle shot
Low angle shot
Undershot
I liked/disliked this film because…
This film made me think about… (3
themes/ideas)
 My favourite character was…because…
 My least favourite character was…because…
 I was shocked when/that….
 Is there one pivotal scene in this film? Discuss.
 The ending of the film is/is not satisfying.
Explain.
 Choose one word that you think describes this
film and explain why you have chosen that word.
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Prejudice – Presentation of segregation in
Southern America. Racial violence and
hatred. Prejudice was taught from childhood
in Mississippi.
Standing up for your beliefs – Can have
consequences. Standing up for your beliefs
can change lives. Make sure what you believe
in is the truth. Standing up for your beliefs
may be hard, but will give you some self
respect and dignity.
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About Character
About Plot
What do we know?
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About Theme
About Setting
How do we know it?
What do we know?
Theme & Plot: This film is about racism,
prejudice and segregation. The coloured
race is oppressed and vict0mised.
How do we know it?
Symbol: Opening shot of drinking
fountains. One for whites and one for
coloured people. You can the blacks are
the oppressed race because their
fountain is of a poor standard and the
whites fountain is state of the art brand
new.
Irony/Metaphor: Even though the
fountains are segregated, the pipes show
that the water comes from the same
place – Even though whites and coloured
people are segregated, we all come from
the same place.
What do we know?
How do we know it?
Camera shows images of a church
burning to the ground.
Setting & Plot: Film involves destruction Camera movement - Pan: Building is
and is set in America (oppression of
identified as a church as the camera pans
African Americans).
across the graveyard to the burning
building, you can see the crosses.
Soundtrack: Gospel music is playing, this
shows that there is an African American
component to the film and alludes to the
fact that it is an African American church
that has been torched.
What do we know?
How do we know it?
Plot: There is tension and
danger. Three boys (two white,
one black) are in trouble.
Long Shot: Shows, one car travelling along a dark
deserted road. Three cars with their lights off (hiding
under cover of darkness) are tailing the other car.
Soundtrack: Low drum beats in an ominous tone.
Plot and Theme: The three
boys are brutally murdered by a
large group of people who want
to hide their identity, some
were driving a police car. This is
because of their race and
associations, showing the
violence and hatred prejudice
can create.
POV Shot:From the boys point of view looking out the
back window of car as unidentified vehicles advance
and nudge back of car.
Camera focus and Lighting: Most of the men remain
anonymous because the camera shot of them is out of
focus and back lit by car headlights to hide their
identity.
Close-up: of gun shooting one of the boys in the head.
Dialogue: (laughter) “I done shoot me a nigger” “we
getting into it now” “…nigger loving Jew boy.”
Sound Effects: Several gunshots fired.
Setting: Set in Southern
America (the boys are not from
these parts)
Film Title: Mississippi Burning
Dialogue: Unidentified attackers all spoke with a
strong southern accent, while boys in the car did not.
What do we know?
How do we know it?
Character: We meet two of the
main characters. FBI agents
Anderson and Ward. The two do
not seem to get along.
Ward: Is in charge. He is a
young straight laced agent that
is very serous and focused on
African American rights.
Anderson: He is laid back
agent. Seem a bit callous and
casual about the case.
Although he does not seem to
care a great deal you do seem
to get the impression that he
does not agree with what is
happening in the South and the
KKK.
Camera Shots: Close up of two men travelling in a car.
Having a conversation. Close up of file showing
pictures and newspaper articles of the violence in the
south.
Costume: Ward wears a full suit with thick glasses to
portray a serious and straight laced image. Anderson is
down to his short sleeved shirt, his tie is loose, and is
lounging in his chair.
Dialogue: “How long you been with the bureau”
“…boss” Identifies they are with the FBI and Ward is the
boss. “These klu kluxes are better with their lynching
than their lyrics” Laughs Anderson. Making fun of KKK,
but not addressing the situation in a serious manner.
“Just read the file Anderson.” Shows Ward does not like
Andersons clowning around and would like to remain
professional.
Note the Contrast between the two characters.
Setting: Set in Mississippi,
where black people are not
valued or even acknowledged
POV Shot: The Welcome to Mississippi sign is seen
from the point of view off the two men in the car as they
drive past. This sign shows three white people as a
representation of what the town is.
What do we know?
How do we know it?
Plot & Theme: Mrs Pell arrives home
from hospital to find that her house has
been vandalised. Although the
investigation and subsequent prosecution
of the KKK members was a positive step
in the war against prejudice and racism in
the South, it has not been eliminated and
there is still a long way to go.
We know that they have made progress
because this scene is shown directly after
the montage showing the arrests, court
cases and sentences for each member of
the KKK that were involved in the
murder.
Camera Shot: Wide angle shot showing
Mrs Pell’s house after it has been
vandalised. This is shown through a POV
shot when Anderson drives up.
Dialogue: “There’s enough good people
around here that know what I did was
right.”
Montage: showing the arrests, court
cases and sentences for each member of
the KKK that were involved in the
murder.
What do we know?
How do we know it?
Contrast: Night time in the opening scene,
day time in the closing scene.
Theme: Progress has been made in the fight
against prejudice and racism in Mississippi.
The locals have hope now and are moving
forward, and starting to rise above
segregation. They are ready to rebuild from
the devastation. The events of Mississippi
Burning were significant in the fight against
racism and prejudice and should always be
remembered.
Parallel: Opening scenes showed the church
burning. Closing scene shows congregation
standing on the ruins of the burnt out church
(burning their church down will not stop them)
Camera Pan: across the congregation to show
both white and black people worshiping
together. Close up: Reinforces that there are
both white and black faces.
Soundtrack: Gospel song revolves around
moving forward and rebuilding ‘Walk on.
Contrast: to the lyrics of the gospel song in the
opening scene where it was asking for help, “I
am tired, I am weak, I am worn… Lead me
through the storm, through the night, take my
hand.”
Zoom in: on a broken grave stone that reads
1964 Not Forgotten. Sound track: Gospel
singing stops, silence and the image fades to
black.
What do we know?
How do we know it?
Character: We meet two of the main
characters. FBI agents Anderson and Ward.
The two do not seem to get along.
Alan Ward: Is in charge. He is a young
straight laced agent that is very serous and
focused on African American rights.
Rupert Anderson: He is laid back cynical
agent. Seem a bit callous and casual about the
case. Although he does not seem to care a
great deal you do seem to get the impression
that he does not agree with what is happening
in the South and the KKK.
Camera Shots: Close up of two men travelling
in a car. Having a conversation. Close up of file
showing pictures and newspaper articles of
the violence in the south.
Costume: Ward wears a full suit with thick
glasses to portray a serious and straight laced
image. Anderson is down to his short sleeved
shirt, his tie is loose, and is lounging in his
chair.
Dialogue: “How long you been with the
bureau”
“…boss” Identifies they are with the FBI and
Ward is the boss. “These klu kluxes are better
with their lynching than their lyrics” Laughs
Anderson. Making fun of KKK, but not
addressing the situation in a serious manner.
“Just read the file Anderson.” Shows Ward
does not like Andersons clowning around and
would like to remain professional.
Note the Contrast between the two
characters.
What do we know?
How do we know it?
Character: Ward and Anderson have a formal
relationship. They have very different ways of
dealing with the investigation and neither of
them agree with the methods that the other
uses.
Dialogue: They always address the other as
“Mr Anderson” or “Mr Ward”
Anderson : “Would it make any difference if I
told you that was the wrong thing to do.”
Ward: “No.”
Showing they had different views on how to
proceed with the case.
Anderson “Don’t put me on your perch, Mr.
Ward”
Ward: “Don’t drag me into your gutter, Mr.
Anderson.”
Character/Plot: Scene outside of the Hospital
after Mrs Pell was beaten. Turning point in
both the relationship between Ward and
Anderson. Also turning point in the
investigation. The characters have reached
breaking point and they both struggle for
power to solve the case
Soundtrack: Drum rhythm symbolises conflict
in the film.
Mise en scene: Stormy weather also
intensifies the conflict. Anderson and Ward
are wrestling physically. Close ups show each
character struggling to gain the upper hand
physically, while they argue as to how they will
proceed.
What do we know?
How do we know it?
Character: Although the two characters don’t
seem to get along. They are fighting for the
same thing ‘justice.’
Anderson does respect Ward in his own way.
Dialogue:
Anderson (about Ward): “Ballsey little bastard
isn’t he.”
The two agents overcome their differences to
work together for the greater good. This
shows they have developed a friendship
beyond the formality at the start of the film.
Last lines
Ward : ‘You wanna drive, Rupert?”
Anderson: “Yeah.”
1. Examine the opening images:
• the white man drinking from one tap, the black boy drinking from another,
• the burning wooden house,
• the sound of gospel singing,
• the car on the road at night,
• the car being followed.
What do you learn from these images?
What sort of film are/were you anticipating at this stage?
2. When FBI agents Anderson and Ward drive into Jessup Town, Mississippi, what do
the visuals tell you about the town?
3. Sheriff Stuckey’s character is established through his appearance, his speech and
what he says. Explain.
4. Who were the boys who were killed at the beginning and what was their history?
5. When Special Agent Ward eats in the area of the diner reserved for the blacks, we
learn several things. Explain.
6. The film makes great use of editing. That is, excerpts from two separate
scenes are shown side by side so that they comment on each other. For
example, the scene where the FBI agents are interviewing in the black
household cuts to the scene where the white thugs go into the black area
looking for Hollis. Why do you think the director uses this technique on
this occasion? What effect does it have?
7. Explain what you think is meant by Ward’s comment to Anderson: “Some
things are worth dying for” and the reply, “Some things are worth killing
for”.
8. Of what significance is Anderson’s story about his father and the mule?
9. This film makes use of the convention of the mismatched duo who end up
learning from each other. Keep a record of the changing and developing
10. In the barber’s shop scene the mayor and sheriff try to frighten Anderson off. Examine the camera
angles and show how they emphasise the power relationship between the men.
11. What is the effect of the image of the FBI men in suits wading through the swamp? What
comment do you think is being made?
12. Comment on the way in which the film makes use of sound-bite interviews with the locals while
the search continues for the bodies of the civil rights workers. Why are these included? (Soundbite interviews are quick comments from individuals who are involved in some way in a particular
event)
13. Why does the director include the scene with Pell’s wife and Betsy’s child? Note the close-ups of
Pell’s face and Mary’s face. What do you think one of them is thinking?
14. List the various races that Clayton Townley of the Ku Klux Klan says he stands against.
15. What is the effect of the shot in which Pell’s wife gives Anderson the information he has been
wanting? Why do you think the director used this technique?
16. Two events mark the turning points in the film. The first one is the result of the court case. What is
the second one? What change does this second event cause in Ward, in particular?
17. This film uses various methods to create tension. Choose a scene and explain how these
techniques add to their tension:
• cutting/editing
• music
• lighting.
18. If asked, Anderson would probably say that the end justifies the means. What are the things that
he, Ward or other FBI men do that could be said to be wrong in themselves but which are done for
good reasons. What is your response to this particular philosophy; do you think that the end can
justify the means?
19. Ward says of the mayor who hangs himself, “Anyone’s guilty who watches this happen and
pretends it isn’t” Is he only talking about the mayor? Explain.
20. How are the final images of the film meant to be optimistic ones? Do you feel optimistic at this
stage?
21. What is your response to the film and the issues raised by it? Does it have relevance to your life? To
New Zealand?

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