(Please read previous two posts)
In the end, it's Burnett's gift for characterization that brings the film to life: moments of despair, of sudden violence, of glorious, unexpected hope are sharpened by the fact that we have come to know these characters, and cared for them deeply.
That 'calculus of value' Burnett knows so well, it's equally instructive when applied to films. "Mississippi Burning" is a film on roughly the same milieu, directed by a white director with two white Hollywood stars, and it won several Oscar nominations and is available for rent everywhere. "Selma, Lord Selma" I had to find from Facets' DVD and video rental arm all the way in Chicago, and only on VHS (though it's available for sale in both DVD and VHS). "Burning" is chock full of grotesque distortions, everything from having blacks stand about in picturesque poses as helpless victims to making the FBI the hero (?!); "Selma" is full of rich, true detail, emotionally and historically, and the kind of poetically understated humanity that makes you feel better about the human race as a whole (that we're capable of this kind of visual, narrative grace). Wonderful film, absolutely.