WOODCUTTERS OF THE DEEP SOUTH
Scen.: Lionel Rogosin. F.: Lionel Rogosin, Louis Brigante. M.: Louis Brigante. Int.: Lionel Rogosin (voce narrante). Prod.: Lionel Rogosin per Impact Films. DCP. Bn e Col.
In 1972 I heard a vague rumor from Francis Walters about a unique group that had sprung up near Montgomery, Alabama. It was an organization of black and white sharecroppers who also cut down white pine trees for the paper companies on a freelance basis. Although historically antagonistic to each other they somehow joined together to form a cooperative. This seemed to me to be the ideal subject to illustrate the dynamics of black-and-white hostility and a very creative attempt to overcome that through mutual cooperation …
The prime mover in this organization was James Simmons, who could be described as an independent, redneck farmer of sharecropper origins … The woodcutters had an extremely difficult struggle. They sold their production to the paper companies under marginal conditions. They financed their trucks and their equipment through the companies similar to the same old system of sharecropping, so that after a few years their loans and interest were exorbitant and were under the nominal control of the companies due to their indebtedness.
Simmons and a few other sharecroppers decided to band together in order to obtain more equitable conditions from the companies, including life and accident insurance for this dangerous work. It could have been the beginning of a new era in the south. I went to Tuscaloosa to meet James; I felt there was an important film to be made. I made several trips to Alabama in order to understand the operation of the Woodcutters Cooperative …
I began to suspect that they were FBI infiltrators. That was the time when the FBI was heavily infiltrating the civil rights movements and other leftwing and radical organizations. Martin Luther had been assassinated; many attempts had been made on the life of Castro … There was a connection between all these events. There was a war going on all over the globe, the Cold War, and these events were some of its tentacles. In any case, J. Edgar Hoover, the CIA and the whole array of rightwing elements in Congress and around the country eliminated much genuine protest. It was a system; it wasn’t totalitarian but it was destructive. It worked by media control, and establishment manipulation. It was a new version of Fascism, which I then labelled Madison Avenue Fascism. I feel sure it led to the downfall of many progressive institutions and the unraveling of the democratic fabric of America.