Filmmaker’s Name and Title:  Ellen Ann Fentress, Producer & Director
Film Name:  Eyes on Mississippi
Length of film: 58 minutes
Genre: Documentary
In 50 words or less, what’s this film about?
This is the story of “the most essential reporter the nation’s never heard of.” Journalist Bill Minor witnessed—and sometimes involuntarily entered—the Mississippi civil-rights struggle. The film examines racial milestones from 1947 until 1964 through Bill Minor’s eyewitness account, his writing and powerful historic footage from 17 U.S. archives.
What inspired you to make this film?
To capture the story of Bill Minor, 93, as a national agent of change in his honest fearless civil-rights reporting. He brought the nation’s eyes on Mississippi through his quiet anonymous reporting for the New York Times and Newsweek as well for his full-time employer, the New Orleans Times Picayune.
Name your Top 3 Films of All Time:
O Brother, Where Art Thou; I Am Not Your Negro; and Father of the Bride (In my family, we spontaneously recite its classic lines. The film is part of our collective identity, like oyster dressing at Thanksgiving)
What’s your connection to Mississippi?
I’m a lifelong Mississippi resident and a native of Greenwood. More importantly, however, almost every aspect of the production is Mississippi-connected: Bill Minor is its subject; Lida Burris Gibson of Jackson is the project’s talented film editor; of the 108 individual contributors who made the production possible, 104 are Mississippians. Local institutions supporting the project are the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson and the Mississippi Humanities Council.
Anything else you want the audience to know about your film:
This is my first film. I’m a long-time print journalist who decided that the right form for capturing this important story was documentary film. I trained at a documentary boot camp, bought a camera and collected over forty hours of Bill Minor’s eyewitness account of history. The project received 501c3 status, which led to over 100 of Bill Minor’s long-time readers contributing to complete the film. Plans are to produce a second documentary, taking up the Mississippi timeline in 1965.