COLORED CONFEDERATES documentary to screen with director in attendance
"Colored Confederates: Myth or Matter of Fact" will screen at noon, Saturday, Oct. 6, at the historic Gem Theatre, Kannapolis, with the director, Ken Wyatt in attendance. Tickets are $4.
Special to Modern Film Fest
In the classic children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a king is sold a bill of goods that falls deftly short. The king’s citizens know something is amiss, but everyone goes along with the rouse... with the exception of one man who says something. Filmmaker Ken Wyatt describes himself as the man who brings attention to the obvious, yet unpopular and uncomfortable.
In his new documentary, “Colored Confederates: Myth or Matter of Fact,” Wyatt’s white elephant in the room is the on-going historical debate as to whether or not blacks fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War. “Why would blacks fight for the Confederacy..” Wyatt asked. “Why are there pictures of blacks, all over the internet, fighting for the Confederacy?” Wyatt said his research revealed some of photographs were bogus, but some were indeed accurate.
Draped in the Confederate flag, the issue provokes questions, speculation, ignorance, racism, uneasiness and typically no real answer or solution. “A lot of people I’ve talked to, with a lot of blacks, they don’t want to go anywhere near the topic,” Wyatt said. “It’s like, ‘I don’t want to lift that rock up.’”
At first, making a documentary on blacks donning Confederate uniforms and fighting alongside whites who were supposedly fighting to support slavery, Wyatt felt little motivation to peel away the layers of that onion. “There were so many wrongful interpretations and slanting of it, as well as the facts, the true things,” he said. “But it kept tapping me on the shoulder.”
Wyatt knew what he was facing with such a racially divisive topic. He knew the research and interviews would be demanding. A previous documentary, “Nigger or Not?” (2002) analyzes the use of the “N-word” and Wyatt expected similar challenges with “Colored Confederates.”
“When you’re in pre-production, it is a test of my commitment to the film to the fullest. The hills and valleys are so deep and there’s times when you’re going to hate your own film,” Wyatt said. “You just want to say ‘Forget it.’ But if you have a deep commitment to your film you’ll override those times.”
With “Nigger or Not” and again with “Colored Confederates,” Wyatt said people are curious as to the filmmaker’s race. “I let it come out however it comes out,” he said. “My fear is if I was to be perceived as a traitor to my race.. that vivid image of that Confederate Flag and a black person next to it, people start losing their minds and I would be one of them if I hadn’t done the research I had done.”
Despite the challenges of securing on-camera interviews for discordant topics, Wyatt landed some of the most well-known experts on the issue of African Americans’ role in the Civil War. H.K. Edgerton, activist, Civil War reenactor and former head of the Asheville NAACP was one of the people Wyatt was most eager to sit down and talk to.
“If someone takes down a Confederate Flag, he’s there to fight for them,” Wyatt said of Edgerton.” Bruce Levine, Ph.D., professor of African American studies at the University of Illinois, is on the “opposite end of the spectrum” in the myth of the black confederate, Wyatt said.
“Right when you say ‘Colored Confederates’ the two words juxtaposed, it just makes you wonder,” Wyatt admits. “Colored confederates” is a term coined by historian Earl Ijames, curator of African-American history at the North Carolina Museum of History. Ijames is behind the movement for a black confederates memorial. “It’s an obscure corner of Civil War history,” the filmmaker said. The documentary unravels the multiple arguments in the racially-centered debate but may not help viewers realize their own conclusions.
“Colored Confederates: Myth or Matter of Fact” will be screened at noon, Saturday, Oct. 6, at the 4th annual Modern Film Fest at the historic Gem Theatre in Kannapolis.
This year's film festival features the 30th anniversary screening of, "Star Trek: Wrath of Khan," the Beatles documentary, "The Beatles Stories" and the vampire movie, "The Dead Matter." There will also be a free live performance by Graveyard Boulevard and a costume contest. Tickets are $4 per movie. For more information on the festival visit www.modernfilmfest.net