It’s 1861 Somewhere
The Neutral Ground is the LEH Documentary Film of the Year
Nearly all New Orleanians and most Louisianans will remember the protests, counter-protests, arguments, and controversies surrounding the statues’ removal. Where many of us saw an insult, an embarrassment, or a mess, Black and Filipino comedian and filmmaker C. J. Hunt saw an opportunity and began conducting the interviews and investigations that would form the core of The Neutral Ground. Opening in 2015, with the beginnings of the presentations to the New Orleans City Council about the statues’ removal, the documentary proceeds through the legal, political, and cultural battles swarming around what became known collectively as “the monuments” and continues through the local movement’s wake in other areas of the country. Hunt talks to protestors, Civil War reenactors, activists, litigators, historians, and one beat-up and tearful Unite the Right rally supporter who argues that white supremacy is “just for fun.” You couldn’t make these people or this story up, but thanks to Hunt’s intrepid documentary work, you don’t have to.
The Neutral Ground is an important testament to the complex and contradictory emotions history can ignite in the present. Good, bad, or institutionally peculiar, the living subjects of the documentary tell a richer story than monuments ever could.
Chris Turner-Neal is the managing editor of 64 Parishes.