The Great Flood
Bill Morrison, director; Bill Frisell, composer. A beautiful, haunting exploration of the Mississippi River flood of 1927, with a soundtrack that’s an artwork in its own right. This wordless documentary is visual poetry created from old newsreels and other archival film records. The flood devastated what remained of the Mississippi Delta’s sharecropper economy, so much so that it helped change the country’s demographics, fueling the northward migration of African-Americans that had already been underway. With just the occasional bit of text on the screen, Mr. Morrison (currently having a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art) conveys the destruction and the aftermath. The film and Mr. Frisell’s music are elegiac, but there are sparks of humor in the journey: a rapid trip through a Sears catalog of the period; a look at government officials visiting flood zones for photo ops, much as they might today. A number of the film fragments used are beginning to deteriorate, and Morrison happily leaves the eroded images as they are. 2013, USA, 78 mins.