Harper Lee's novel, and the story of a remarkable high school production of the adapted play, are used as a lens to examine race, class, gender, and justice - then and now.
Directed by Sandy Jaffe
Editor: Bernice Schneider
Composer: John Kusiak
Cinematography: Steward Jones
Consulting Producer: Sam Pollard
Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: 65-minutes and 37-minutes.
"A provocative, honest and inspirational commentary on race relations in the 21st century." Susan E. Eaton, Director, Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy, Brandeis University
OUR MOCKINGBIRD is a documentary that uses Harper Lee's 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird as a lens to view race, class, gender and justice, then and now. Woven through the film is the story of two extraordinarily different high schools in Birmingham, Alabama - one black, one white - who collaborate on a remarkable production of the adapted play, To Kill a Mockingbird.
In addition to this unique collaboration, we hear the voices of political leaders (Congressman John Lewis, former Attorney General Eric Holder), journalists (Katie Couric, Rick Bragg), actors (Mary Badham "Scout", Phillip Alford "Jem" in the 1962 movie), writers (Diane McWhorter, Rick Bragg), scholars (Charles Ogletree, Wayne Flynt, Cynthia E. Jones, Marshall Ganz), lawyers (Sen. Doug Jones, Reginald Lindsay, Richard Jaffe) and activists (Bryan Stephenson, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Morris Dees) mingle with those of students and teachers. Together these diverse voices reveal that as a country we have made progress but are still struggling with the issues of race, class and justice addressed in the novel.
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2016
Copyright Date: 2015
DVD ISBN: 1-94154-557-2
"The documentary describes the book as a love letter to the South, small towns, and the bond between a father and his daughter...This is a stirring and timely tribute to the ongoing struggle against prejudice. Highly recommended."
S. Rees, Video Librarian
"This film clearly reveals the enduring power of Harper Lee's novel as a means of promoting honest and direct communication. In today's charged atmosphere, Our Mockingbird reaffirms our hope that young people hold the promise for a better future."
David J. Harris, Managing Director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School
"A must-see, partly for the ideas of the play, but mostly for its realistic portrayal of segregation then and now and for the reactions of today's students. It is an important story about our history, our past and our present."
Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education, New York University, dianeravitch.com
"A provocative, honest and inspirational commentary on race relations in the 21st century...Our Mockingbird makes clear the longstanding structures and beliefs that reinforce hierarchies of human value, infect our laws and policies, and constrict our abilities to form authentic relationships with each other across long-constructed racial lines. Our Mockingbird reminds us that we can each play meaningful roles in creating a racially just society. But it doesn't shy away from reminding us of our wretched past and that creation of a better future will forever be a work in progress."
Susan E. Eaton, Director, The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy, Professor, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Author, Integration Nation: Immigrants, Refugees and America at its Best
"My graduate students, most of whom last read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school themselves, marvel at the new meaning they make of the book and the movie by watching this evocative film about race, class and justice in America - then and now."
Dr. Robert L. Selman, Roy E. Larsen Professor of Human Development and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
"Powerful film...To Kill A Mockingbird has served as an American primer on race for millions of children and adults. This film brings its message to life...The viewer is compelled to recognize the need to make sure that future generations never forget how racial oppression has shaped and defined our society, and we are reminded that learning about it can never become merely an academic exercise; it must be viscerally understood and acted upon if we are to all be freed of its enduring hold on our collective conscience."
Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education, University of California - Los Angeles, Executive Director, Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools
"Our Mockingbird recounts our country's pervasive history of racism and honors the magic of young people to create a new realm of possibility. This film inspires educators and activists to engage young people in the process of unraveling racism and transforming social relationships."
Sarah Camiscoli, Founder and Co-director, IntegrateNYC4me, ESL teacher, The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy Of Letters
"This film is a useful resource for the study of the civil rights movement and of the practical uses of educational theatre in the classroom. Our Mockingbird will also be a useful adjunct to the classroom study of To Kill a Mockingbird and will serve specifically to enhance student understanding of both the historical significance of the book and its continued relevance in contemporary society."
Kimberly Poppiti, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Our Mockingbird is a uniquely invaluable educational tool for use in a classroom or community screening. The heroic, but unsuccessful efforts of Atticus Finch, a white lawyer, to defend Tom Robinson, falsely accused of raping a white girl, in Maycomb, AL in 1935, are a microcosm of the continuing consequential impact of the legacy of slavery and white supremacy upon our 21st century generation of black and white Americans."
Dr. Clarence B. Jones, former political advisor, personal lawyer and draft speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Our Mockingbird brings new life to Harper Lee's novel. Students at two schools do what's needed to heal our racial divide - they work together, united by a common purpose, and they come to know each other. Their lives, and ours, are better."
Maureen Costello, Director, Teaching Tolerance, Southern Poverty Law Center
"An engaging and thorough introductory overview of the historical moment when Lee was writing. But, just as important, the film documents the bonding experience that a theatrical production can have...Seeing these young people from racially segregated communities come together--and work together--to give back to those communities is inspirational, indeed. Our Mockingbird is an apt and touching tribute to Lee's legacy to U.S. literature and culture."
Gary Richards, Associate Professor and Chair of English, Linguistics, and Communication, University of Mary Washington
"About one in four white public school students attends a racially isolated school, as does one in five black students...Though we may think we no longer need to engineer experiences that bring kids of different races together, Our Mockingbird strongly suggests otherwise."
Melinda Henneberger, The Washington Post
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Includes the original 65-minute version and a 37-minute classroom version, with Scene Selection, and SDH Captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, plus 7 short video clips as bonus features:
John Lewis on Selma [7:01]
(Senator) Doug Jones on the Fifth Little Girl [1:53]
Bryan Stephenson on Advocacy [1:24]
On Race, Class and Justice [3:00]
Morris Dees on Bias [0:46]
Mary Badham Riding the Bus [2:00]
The film's website
Awards and Festivals
Best Documentary, Roxbury International Film Festival
Best Documentary, Newburyport Film Festival
Sidewalk Film Festival
Ojai Film Festival
Belmont World Film Festival
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"A documentary that shows how Lee's beloved tale continues to engage communities in discourse about the unresolved issues of race, class, and justice."
Peter Keough, Boston Globe
"Remind[s] us of the timeless message of Lee's novel and of the work toward justice that has been done and that remains yet to be done...Suitable for high school classes and college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of race, anthropology of theater and literature, and American studies, as well as for general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database