SXSW 2000 Film Festival and Conference


Dir/Scr/Prod: Elizabeth Thompson; DP: Michael Anderson, Adam Beckman, Thomas Harting; Ed: Elizabeth Finlayson; Music: Spencer Critzhley, Marco D'Ambrosio.

16mm, 60 min., 1999 (WP)

In the Eighties, Greg Withrow made appearances on shows like Donahue and PM Magazine to share his story: The former KKK leader had renounced his racist roots and embraced love after meeting a woman. It was an irresistible story of redemption -- boy hates world, boy meets girl, boy leaves Klan. But Elizabeth Thompson's documentary shows a man whose salvation is a daily struggle and whose long days are spent in the company of his demons. Thompson asks the question: If Withrow's anger is no longer hurled at strangers, just where does it go? And the answer is not simple. Thompson interviews the fiery-eyed Withrow as well as his new girlfriend, colleagues, and sociologists, who all paint a picture of a man redirecting the violent side and need for family (which drew him to the Klan in the first place) into involvement with the local church, diligent work on his farm, and the study of martial arts. Although Withrow reveals a childhood marred by abuse at the hands of his father, neither Withrow nor Thompson indulge the notion that a bad childhood makes for a rotten adult. As one interviewee says, half of our grief is what was done to us, the other half is what we did to ourselves. And for Withrow, that means what he must do is continue the daily struggle to tame his rage.

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