Brave New World

by Heather Havrilesky,

“Home of the Brave” offers [a] very personal approach to significant events, even though most of them took place 40 years ago. Director Paola di Florio examines the life and death of Viola Liuzzo, the only white woman murdered during the civil rights movement, partially through the experiences of her children. Liuzzo was campaigning for black voting rights near Selma, Ala., when she was killed by four members of the Ku Klux Klan, one of whom turned out to the a member of the FBI. As new details of the story emerge and Liuzzo’s family struggles to come to grips with her death years later, the film reaches an emotional high pitch that’s so heartbreaking yet full of hope, the experience is unforgettable. After so many paint-by-numbers documentaries about the civil rights movement, it’s remarkable that a filmmaker could manage to bring the period and its tragedies alive through such a personal story.

I saw this film at Sundance last year and it had me weeping openly in a room full of critics, which I don’t need to tell you is as unlikely as it is unsavory. I thought I’d seen enough films about the civil rights movement and that this would be more of the same old story, but Liuzzo’s tale is uncovered by the filmmakers with such patience and care that her fate feels extremely personal by the end of the film. “Home of the Brave” will make you want to stand up for what you believe in — or at least skip work and get drunk on cooking sherry.

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