Filmmakers' Names: Timothy Givens and Mark K. Brockway
Film Title: Mississippi Madam: The Life of Nellie Jackson
In 50 words or less, what is your film about?
Timothy Givens: Mississippi Madam chronicles the life of an African-American woman, Nellie Jackson, from her beginnings in Possum Corner, Mississippi, to her time as madam of a brothel she ran for more than 60 years throughout World War II, the Civil Rights Era, and more in downtown Natchez, Mississippi.
What was your motivation to make this film… why this film, and why now?
Timothy Givens: I grew up hearing about Nellie Jackson but not in a shocking way, but a normal everyday way. People were used to it until the end. We are very fortunate to have made this film, with the people who knew her best telling story. Our motivation was this unique story about a fascinating lady that contains humor but also tragedy.
Mark K. Brockway: I think this documentary needed to be made now. Ms. Jackson has been deceased for nearly 28 years. To get the whole story, told by the people who knew her best, time was of the essence.
Was there anything strange, funny, interesting, sad, scary, or otherwise unusual about making this film?
Timothy Givens: There are some very sad moments in the film where subjects get emotional. We heard stories of how young Natchez men would be taken to the brothel almost like a rite of passage when they reached manhood. In some instances their own fathers took them there. Some of these were off the record. Unusual is how candid law enforcement was about the brothel and we have many interviews of that.
Mark K. Brockway: For me it was the realization of just how beloved Nellie Jackson was in the Natchez community was most interesting/surprising.
What is your connection to Mississippi? If you don’t have one, why did you choose to enter your film into a Mississippi festival?
Timothy Givens: I'm originally from Natchez. When I was young my mother drove me past her house and said Nellie Jackson resided there, but was very vague about what she did, and how she did it.
Mark K. Brockway: I moved from New Jersey to Mississippi 12 years ago. I think this documentary is inherently a Mississippi story and needs to be seen by as many people in this state as possible. That was the motivation for submitting to Crossroads.
Anything else you’d like the audience to know about your film?
Timothy Givens: We are sensitive to the subject matter. This is a true account of an African-American woman running an illegal business in the Deep South serving only white customers under the nose of the law.
Mark K. Brockway: We made the documentary near $9,000. We filmed with whatever equipment we could get our hands on.