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Theatrical poster by Bill Gold
Robert F. Colesberry
R. Lee Ermey
December 9, 1988
Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American drama-thriller film directed by Alan Parker and written by Chris Gerolmo. It was loosely based on the FBI investigation into the real-life murders of three civil rights workers in the U.S. state of Mississippi in 1964. The film focuses on two fictional FBI agents (portrayed by Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe) who investigate the murders. Hackman's character (Agent Rupert Anderson) and Dafoe's character (Agent Alan Ward) are loosely based on the partnership of FBI agent John Proctor and agent Joseph Sullivan.
The film also features Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, and Gailard Sartain. It won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Hackman), Best Actress in a Supporting Role(McDormand), Best Director, Best Film Editing (Gerry Hambling), Best Sound and Best Picture.
It was filmed in a number of locations in central Mississippi and at one location in Alabama (town square scenes).
3 Historical background
4 Critical reaction
5.1 Wisconsin v. Mitchell
8 External links
The story is loosely based on the real-life murders of civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. After the three are reported missing, two FBI agents are sent to investigate the incident in rural Jessup County, Mississippi (modeled after Neshoba Countywhere the real murders took place). The two agents take completely different approaches: Agent Alan Ward (Dafoe), a youngliberal northerner, takes a direct approach to the investigation; Agent Rupert Anderson (Hackman), a former Mississippi sheriff who understands the intricacies of race relations in the South, takes a more subtle tack.
It is very hard for the two to work in the town, as the local sheriff's office is linked to a major branch of the Ku Klux Klan, and the agents cannot talk to the local black community, due to their fear of Klan retaliation. Slowly but steadily, relations between the FBI and the local Jessup County sheriff's office deteriorate, as do relations between Ward and Anderson. Things boil over when the bodies are found and the deputy sheriff, Clinton Pell (Brad Dourif), realizes that his wife gave their locations to Anderson, and he assaults her. When Anderson sees her in the hospital, he storms off to confront Pell but is stopped by Ward. After a violent fight and battle of wills, the two agree that they will work together to bring down the Jessup County branch of the Ku Klux Klan using Anderson's as yet untried approach.
The new tactics begin when the mayor is abducted. He is taken to a remote shack and left on his own with a black man (played by Badja Djola) wearing a rudimentary mask, similar to those used by KKK members in the film. Relating a story of how a young black man was castrated by the KKK, he implies that the mayor will likewise be mutilated unless he talks, by wielding a razor blade while relating the tale. In reality, the abductor is an FBI operative specially flown in to intimidate the mayor. The mayor gives the operative a comprehensive description of the killings, including the names of those