Southern Rites


Gillian Laub


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Director Gillian Laub
Completed 2015 Runtime 87



After a NY Times article exposes still-segregated proms in Montgomery Country, Georgia, a town wrestles with racism that goes far beyond its school dance.

Long synopsis

In 2009, the New York Times magazine published photographer Gillian Laub’s photos of Montgomery County, Georgia’s racially segregated proms. The article ignited a firestorm of national outrage and led the community to finally integrate its proms. Southern Rites looks at Montgomery County one year later, as old wounds are reopened following the murder of a young black man by an elderly white town patriarch. Against the backdrop of an historic campaign to elect its first African-American sheriff, the case divides locals along well-worn racial lines and threatens to drag the town back to darker days. What at first seems like an open and shut case soon turns out to be anything but, and the ensuing trial uncovers complex truths and emotionally charged revelations. Hauntingly filmed by the photographer whose photos first brought the area unwanted notoriety, Southern Rites documents one town’s painful struggle to progress while confronting longstanding issues of race, equality and justice.

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What people
have said

This excellent documentary puts a small Southern county beset by racial tensions under the microscope.

Hollywood Reporter

This documentary is at similar times heartbreaking, but incredibly affecting.

The Daily Show

Southern Rites is an engaging piece of long-form investigative journalism about a, sadly, ongoing issue, and for that reason alone, it is as much of a must watch as Selma.

Watch the
trailer here