Purge This Land

Director Lee Anne Schmitt meditates on America’s legacy of racially motivated violence with this somber essay film (2017). The form is relatively straightforward: Schmitt presents locations from all over the country with voice-over narration describing violent incidents that took place there (lynchings, race riots, police shootings). Some of the sites have been memorialized with plaques, though many are anonymous; the latter come to represent Americans’ inability to learn from history and eliminate racism from our culture. As the sites accumulate, one becomes overwhelmed by how much of U.S. history is rooted in violence—this is ultimately more complex than it lets on. The title refers to a quote from radical abolitionist John Brown, one of the movie’s recurring subjects. Jeff Parker of Tortoise wrote the moody score.