Mississippi Damned is a drama that takes place over two time periods – 1986 & 1998 and tells the story of Black Poverty and Abuse in American slums. It is sturdy and pulls no punches, providing a raw depiction of a vicious cycle of abuse, addiction, and violence brought upon by poverty.
A generation’s struggle to escape from this vicious circle, and make a better life and future lies at the heart of the movie. Lives intertwine, and relationships are formed and frayed in this heart-wrenching tale.
1. Quick Review
Mississippi Damned is based on the true story and life events of writer and director Tina Mabry. It captures the struggles that exist inside the Black community and how families succumb to an endless cycle of abuse and addiction. Brought upon by poverty, the film captures the struggle to break free in vivid detail, without providing easy, sentimental outcomes.
Mississippi DamnedAir Date: 16th January 2009Status: FinishedStudio: Morgan’s Mark
3. Is It Worth Watching?
The generation of teens that serve as the protagonists in Mississippi Damned must decide whether they want to be free from the chain that binds them or succumb to this vicious cycle. It is a story of struggle and perseverance that shows you a realistic side of Black America.
In 1986 teenage cousins Leigh and Sammy watch their mother and aunt struggle to maintain a roof over their heads. Leigh is a closeted lesbian and is devastated when her girlfriend announces that she is marrying a man. She attacks her fiancé and is arrested for assault. Her family shuns Leigh because of her sexuality.
Sammy is a budding basketball player with real talent and potential. An older man sexually assaults him. Sammy makes a deal and starts getting cash in exchange for sexual favors from that man to finance his basketball career.
Their mother is a raging alcoholic and eventually ends up getting arrested for stabbing her boyfriend. Sammy is taken in by his aunt, and he rapes his cousin sister Kari while he is staying there.
When the movie jumps to 1998, we see the three of them as adults struggling to survive. Leigh is still hung up on her girlfriend after being released from prison. Sammy’s career in basketball was fast and furious as an injury forced him out of the sport. He doesn’t want to accept a minimum wage job to support his family after having glimpsed basketball glory.
Kari is a talented musician who is looking to get out of Mississippi and go to college. She is burdened by her cancer-stricken mother and her siblings, who she has to provide for. Caught in a money crunch between school and family, she is faced with difficult choices.
II. Cast & Performances
Mississippi Damned stars Tessa Thompson, Malcolm Goodwin, D.B. Woodside, and Michael Hyatt. The stars turn in compelling performances, but the child actors in the first part of the movie highlight the horrible circumstances that they are growing up in.
Kylee Russell is sweet and charismatic as a talented musician eyeing college, and Chastity Hammite gives a heart-touching performance as a closeted lesbian who is outcast from her family because of her sexuality.
Jossie Harris Thacker gives a powerful performance as an alcoholic mother, caught between mood swings of love and hate.
III. Detailed Review
Mabry’s tightly wound script is an incendiary story, which evokes emotion. It is told with a firm hand gives a realistic representation of growing up in poverty, surrounded by alcoholism and abuse. It doesn’t offer an easy way out and captures the obstacles that plague the path to success.
Success here is seen as an escape from the Mississippi neighborhood. Although it is a local story, the underlying issues and themes on-screen apply to many Black families and poverty struck areas. It is the kind of drama that isn’t made nowadays and is a compelling story told well.
5. Final Thoughts
Mississippi Damned has shown a side of hardships and turmoil about living in poverty that is absent in research papers and political speeches. Without sugar-coating the narrative and drawing from her personal experiences, director Manry has produced a powerful and emotional movie.