MOVING MIDWAY (Dir. Godfrey Cheshire, 2008)
Though he is based in New York these days, Godfrey Cheshire is fairly well known in my whereabouts (the Triangle Area in North Carolina) because, well, he was born in this area and the movie reviews he has written for the Independent Weekly for a long time (well, since the '80s) and his extensive film historian reputation.
When he learned that a plantation house (the Midway of the title) that has long been in his family was to be relocated away from the strip-mall sprawl of outer Raleigh he decided to finally pick up a camera himself and document the event.
Along the way he finds that his family is a lot bigger than he thought it was with descendants of the slaves that worked on the house grounds revealing connections that stack up as revelations with further study. Robert Hinton, a African American Historian who has done his own research into the family Midway matters accompanies Cheshire on many of his trips and provides a sober (and sobering) viewpoint far removed from the romanticized South of GONE WITH THE WIND (which we see many vivid clips of).
Ghosts of the past are thought to be haunting Midway and may not be happy about the move but professor Hinton is, speaking about the plans to construct a shopping center with a Target he remarks:
“I have the pleasure of knowing that what used to be Midway Plantation will soon be covered with concrete and asphalt” to Cheshire’s somewhat bemused reaction.
Viewing the massive operation it takes to move such a bulky historical house Cheshire notes that the draped pieces remind him of a film set. This is apt because the filter through which American media milestones like BIRTH OF A NATION, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, Alex Haley’s “Roots” (the book and TV miniseries), the before mentioned GONE WITH THE WIND, and even a clip of the infamous Uncle Remus from the roundly considered racist SONG OF THE SOUTH pour through what could have just been an overly ambitious home movie could only be devised by someone with such a refined but passionate love of pop culture.
MOVING MIDWAY is as funny and touchingly thoughtful as it is educational and intensely interesting. Despite that I have viciously disagreed with many of Cheshire’s opinions of mostly mainstream movies in the pages of a local paper over the years, I still returned to reading his reviews time and again because of the emotion and debate it would stir up in me.
This labor of love stirred up a lot of feelings as well and as a small independent documentary by a first time film maker that hasn’t gotten a MPAA rating yet or much distribution, I strongly urge folks to seek it out.