Unsparingly honest, A TIME FOR BURNING packs a mighty wallop with its excruciatingly up-close treatment of race issues in a typical white, middle-class church at the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement. Originally rejected by the three major networks for being too controversial, this classic cinema-verité film from award-winning filmmaker Bill Jersey captures an all-white Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska as their eager, but earnest pastor tries to get the congregation to reach out to their fellow black Lutherans. Jersey's camera is there when a highly articulate and outspoken black nationalist Ernie Chambers tells Pastor Youngdahl that his "Jesus is contaminated." The camera continues to roll as a church elder speaks passionately about the urgency of desegregation but then admits he's never actually spent time one-on-one with a black person. As tensions threaten to tear apart the church, the film illustrates the anguish and awakenings of the civil rights era through the words and actions of everyday people. "A glowing beauty" (The New York Times), A TIME FOR BURNING is a classic touchstone, which poignantly captures the mood of the times as the Civil Rights Movement challenged the nation to change its ways. DVD Features: Director's Commentary; Update: Ernie Chambers 40 years later; Filmmaker Statement; Filmmaker Biography; Scene Selection
An extremely passionate and moving documentary, William C. Jersey's A Time for Burning
explores the civil rights issue from one of the least likely of vantage points--a white, middle-class congregation in Nebraska--and reveals some of the more powerful observations about race and equality to come out of the '60s. Jersey's focal point is the Reverend L. William Youngdahl, who attempts to inspire his parishioners--all white and Lutheran--to reach out and make a connection with black Lutherans in the state. Youngdahl quickly finds himself at the center of a conflict that mirrors the nationwide struggle, with representatives from the church, community, and protest movements speaking for and against his desire to unite those of a common faith. Rejected by all three networks, Burning
's unflinching exploration of the state of race relations in the United States and the human heart earned it an Academy Award nomination in 1968, and a place on the National Film Registry in 2005. The DVD includes commentary by and a biography on Jersey, as well as an update on activist Ernie Chambers, who is featured in the film. -- Paul Gaita
Special message from Bill Jersey, producer and director of A Time for Burning
“With our new (and beautiful) Black presidential family we are tempted to say - the Battle for Black Civil rights has been won. I believe with our President "Old hatreds cannot last" BUT-- as we explored in A Time for Burning-(1965) nothing is as simple as it may seem. In this (my) film about Black /white relations one Church member reminds us (to prove there is no racism in his school) that--"I had a negro in my locker room”. "Burning" has no fire hoses -no teeth baring dogs- and no policeman with truncheons --just one angry Black barber and nice-really nice -white folks saying "we want them to have everything we have- we just can't sit next to them" (in church ). Ultimately- the Churches white minister is forced to resign. When I showed the film at NYU last fall- once again as it has for 43 years the film provoked the response that earned it an Oscar nomination and installation in the permanent Archive of the library of congress: "great story- still relevant”. In my view Burning retains its power because it prompts reflection - and reminds us -- that racism is not the province of mad men or extremists alone- it exists in all of us AND- to see it- is the first step in liberation from it. The time for change IS now- and BUT we, Obama reminds us, must work together to make it real!! So-Thank you Docurama for making Burning available and thanks to you who will extend its reach.