I first met Laura Kathryn Mitchell, my co-producer, shortly after her arrival in Canada from the USA fifteen years ago. We quickly became friends.
Laura and I often talked about her relationship with the South, her mom and her huge family. Politics became more prominent in our conversations after George W. Bush’s 2000 election win. I noticed a new malaise within Laura as she talked about family members becoming “less Christian and more right wing.”
I in turn, like many, witnessed with dismay the rise of the religious right in many spheres of the USA government. Bush’s re-election in 2004, hailed as a victory for the Christian Right, surprised many.
The media’s interpretation, always short on history, limited itself to statistics, a monolithic red blob expanding over Southern states, and generalities about the Christian Right’s hold upon the South. Laura insisted otherwise: she kept saying that not all Southerners were Bible thumping rednecks. She wanted to defend them, and I wanted to get a bigger picture.
The idea of Unbuckling my Bible Belt took shape as a road movie using Laura’s family as a microcosm for the South. After the death of her mother last December the documentary took on an added personal quest. Laura now needed to know what remained for her in this land of hard-core Bush supporters.
I learned so much about the South. My biggest surprise was discovering the myriad relationships Southerners have with their God. A God and a Bible that don’t always embrace the Christian Right and its Republican agenda.