A Black family in North Carolina battles decades of harassment by land developers trying to seize their waterfront property, in this searing documentary by Oscar-nominated director Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro).
Silver Dollar Road
For generations, the North Carolina waterfront property known locally as Silver Dollar Road was passed through the hands of an African American family, the Reels. Family members describe it as an idyllic spot where they could earn a living from fishing and growing their own food while isolating themselves from the violence of white supremacy.
But the Reels family’s fortunes changed in the 1970s when developers sought to drive out Black landowners and profit from the real estate. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Raoul Peck tells the story of how the Reels battled over several decades to save their land. He draws upon the in-depth reporting of Lizzie Presser, published by ProPublica and The New Yorker.
Peck’s depiction of the Reels unfolds with novelistic detail, profiling the matriarch Gertrude in her nineties and her sons, Melvin Davis and Licurtis Reels. The men lived all their lives on Silver Dollar Road, so when they’re served with a court order for eviction aged in their sixties and fifties, respectively, they choose going to jail rather than giving up their home.
The film’s cinematic portrayal of the land and water deeply conveys why it means more to the Reels than any developer’s offer. As their case churns through the courts, we witness how power is wielded against Black families in ways both blatant and subtle. But the Reels never give up their fight. Peck previously crafted an exquisite essay of Black resistance in I Am Not Your Negro (TIFF ’16). Now he develops those themes in an equally impressive family saga.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival