Sud (South, 1999): Akerman’s Portrait of Hate Crime Killing of James Byrd

Sud (South), 1999

Completed in 1999, Chantal Akerman’s Sud (South) is a searing examination of the hate crime killing of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas. Tracing the terrain of Jasper, Sud intertwines the city’s landscape, interviews and footage of Byrd’s funeral.

Describing the project Akerman wrote: “How do the trees and the whole natural environment evoke so intensely death, blood and the weight of history? How does the present call up the past? And how does this past, with a mere gesture or a simple regard, haunt and torment you as you wander along an empty cotton field or a dusty country road?”

A difficult, important film, Sud poses Akerman’s questions without fully answering them, seemingly acknowledging the inability of landscape or interviews to fully explain the genesis of such profound violence.

color, sound, 70 minutes.