This 105-minute 1999 HBO special beautifully realized Ernest J. Gaines's powerful novel about race relations, capital punishment, and human dignity in late 1940s southern Louisiana. Grant Wiggins (Cheadle) is a college-educated farm boy who has returned to his little bayou town to teach in the black school. One of his former students, a slow kid named Jefferson (Phifer), finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, during which a shootout leaves two black men and one white shopkeeper dead. He is sentenced to die for the crime he did not commit. In attempting to mitigate Jefferson's culpability, his defense lawyer refers to him as little more than an animal -- "a hog, not a man" -- but to no avail. The boy's insulted mother insists that Wiggins visit Jefferson in jail and teach him that he is not a hog, that he can die with dignity as a man. Wiggins is not eager to take on this difficult and unpleasant task, but his aunt, "Tante Lou" (Tyson), leans on him to perform the deed. His girlfriend, a beautiful single mother abandoned by her husband, also urges Wiggins on. The acting, particularly by Cheadle, Phifer and the two old women, is excellent. An excellent drama that is nearly worthy of the superb book on which it is based.
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The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus