3 Stars
Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 74 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

In 1965 a 39-year-old mother of five—Viola Liuzzo—decided to partake in the historic march on Selma Alabama. Liuzzo had joined numerous other white women in this event in the civil rights movement, and she lent her services as a nurse as well as her political support. After the March Viola continued to help, driving individuals back and forth to their homes that evening, and at some point she encountered another vehicle on the dark road. In moments Liuzzo would be dead, the victim of a murder, becoming the only white to lose their life in the civil rights battle.
The historic significance of Liuzzo’s death was immediate, and President Lyndon Johnson used the event as leverage to pass his Voter’s Rights Act, but the saga behind the vituperative activist mother goes far deeper. The first indication that this is not going to be a cut and dry crime story is when it is revealed that the FBI had a file on the teamster’s wife, and in fact it was three times as large as their documents on The Klan. Liuzzo had long been a woman who sympathized with the black movement and participated in civil issues and the revelation that the FBI was keeping tabs on the woman begins to expose numerous curiosities about her death.

After obtaining records the surviving children come to discover that the Feds had numerous instances of obfuscation, blocked out records, and other suspicious activities. In short time the FBI made arrests in the murder case, but the case had clouds hanging over it. There was a double agent working inside the Klan and it was discovered that this agent was in fact riding in the car as Liuzzo was killed, and his involvement is even in question. Later the four men were acquitted as they were tried by a jury of like-minded white men, and then J. Edgar Hoover struck out on a smear campaign against the woman to discredit her and divert attention away from a controversial placement in the Klan.
The documentary also showcases the events surrounding the children in the years following their mother’s death. At one point in the 1980’s when it became revealed that a government agent had been in the car the night of the murder the children filed a wrongful death suit against the Federal Government, which they subsequently lost. These and other events slowly began to separate the children from each other in adulthood.
While “Home of the Brave” showcases a very important event in the civil rights epoch the film does have all the feel of a news program on PBS. It plays in a traditional mode of discovery, but the story is still absorbing.

Posted on January 21, 2004 in Reviews by

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