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Bill Morrison’s masterpiece of found footage

Filmmaker Bill Morrison uses found, archival footage to explore a moment in American history that brought on huge social, demographic and environmental changes.


Conversation Club

  1. Bill Morrison explains that he makes films using primarily archival footage and no dialogue. What do you think of this artistic choice? Does it help explain why he might therefore describe these films as “musical poems?”
  2. The subject of Morrison’s most recent film is the 1927 Mississippi River flood. He explains that this flood captures an important moment in the story of America. Why might a particular moment in history be a useful way to tell that story?
  3. Morrison explains how the Great Flood caused profound changes in people’s lives. What are some of those changes that he lists? Is there a major event that has taken place in your community or country that has changed lives significantly?
  4. The societal shifts caused by the Great Flood made it, in Morrison’s words, a “lightning rod” event. This is a term that is used to describe someone or something that attracts criticism or gets blamed when things go wrong. What other events – local or international – can you think of that might be described as a “lightning rod?”
  5. Some of the archival film used by Morrison to tell the story of the 1927 flood is damaged, and it’s also all in black and white and without any sound. Why does Morrison think that this adds to the value of that footage rather than detracting from it? Do you agree?
  6. Would you want to watch the film that Morrison created? How else might this story be told? For instance, do you think that a book or an exhibit of photos would be as powerful a way to document the Great Flood and share it with modern day audiences?
  7. In Morrison’s mind, the flood in 1927 is more relevant today than ever before because, as he explains, flooding is becoming an increasingly frequent natural disaster. How do you think that generations in the future might witness this current chapter in history? Do you think that footage from modern day floods might have more or less impact than the 1927 footage?
  8. In groups, can you think of historic moments or events that could be used to help tell the story of your own country for future generations? What are these events and what story do you think they might help tell?

Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Education. Other videos in this series are listed below.

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