UM Southern studies students premiere short documentary at film festival

Posted on Feb 8 2018 - 7:56am by Kajah Kennedy

A short film created by University of Mississippi Southern studies students will make its premiere at the Oxford Film Festival. The film, “Randy Weeks, Mississippi Songwriter,” was created by Keerthi Chandrashekar, Je’Monda Roy and Jimmy Thomas, who all served as co-producers for the project.

The film is the product of a three-day film workshop the students attended, where they were instructed by filmmaker Ava Lowery from Southern Foodways Alliance.

The piece centers around a Weeks-penned song titled “Emmett Till, Emmett Till (does your soul wonder still?)” The song describes the lack of justice and pain centered around the tragedy of Emmett Till and asks, “Will there ever be any peace for the soul of Emmett Till?”

“The goal of the film was to highlight the song written by Randy Weeks and explore his reasons for writing the song,” Lowery said.

The song starts with a reference to the Tallahatchie River and the “many secrets that she will always keep.” It quickly transitions to Till with the line “back in 1955 I guess she had her fill when she gave up the body of a child named Emmett Till.”

On the 60th anniversary of Till’s death, his family requested that Weeks come and perform the song for them.

The short documentary explores Weeks’ songwriting. A native of Madison, Weeks currently resides in Oxford, where he is a “psychotherapist by profession.” He also writes regularly for the Clarion-Ledger, the Oxford Eagle and the Local Voice.

“My first specific memory of writing was in the second grade,” Weeks said. “Our class had taken a field trip to the petrified forest in Flora. When we got back, our teacher had us write a story about the experience. In college, I started writing hymn texts, original songs and more poetry. Somewhere along the way, I started writing pieces for newspapers and other publications. Now, I have dozens of original songs.”

In the film, Weeks describes how being from Mississippi has directly impacted the songs he writes. He said he hopes the documentary will serve as a “catalyst” for important conversations.

“I hope that it will shed light on Till’s torture and lynching, resulting in people recognizing the barbaric nature of such actions,” Weeks said. “If they see the horror of such racism and bigotry, perhaps they will become empowered to fight this evil wherever they go.”

The creators of the film hope it can serve as a learning experience for people and that it opens doors for more dialogue about race in Mississippi.

“I hope the audience will learn to find a way to have conversations about race – especially about the history of Mississippi because we talk about Mississippi, but we don’t talk about the bad in Mississippi, and there is a lot of bad in Mississippi, and we skip over those topics,” Roy said. “So I think it’s important to talk about that racial history, that bad history, the history that caused a lot of black people and white people a lot of pain. I think that’s what he’s doing with this song as a straight white male and minister. He’s trying to bring awareness to a race issue.”

The short film is set to premiere in the Mississippi Music Video block 9:45 p.m. Friday on Malco screen 3.

This article was submitted to The Daily Mississippian from an advanced journalism class.