I saw the documentary Greensboro: Closer to the Truth last night at the Carolina.
It's a sympathetic portrait of the CWP survivors and the TRC, and a compelling if incomplete version of the larger drama.
The star of the film is Nelson Johnson, who emerges as a complex and in many ways sympathetic man. Paul Bermanzohn, Signe Waller, Marty Nathan, and Willena Cannon also are allowed to represent themselves with some depth, as is former Klansman Gorrell Pierce.
The movie is shot beautifully, making GSO look like a picturesque if somewhat down-at-the-heels southern town; there are references to a population of a quarter-million or so and a couple of shots of downtown buildings, but a casual viewer might come away thinking Greensboro is Salisbury.
You might also get the impression that we have an all-white City government, consisting entirely of Florence Gatten, Keith Holliday, and Jim Melvin; Gatten and Melvin are hanged with their own words and drew hoots from the audience.
Details such as the involvement of members of the City HRC and uniformed police officers in planning discussions for the TRC, or the testimony of councilmember Yvonne Johnson at a public TRC hearing and the contentious debate among councilmembers over the project, are barely even hinted at. We are shown some white folks contentedly playing golf and watching baseball and not knowing or caring about the TRC process, and a Greek chorus of journalists (myself included) commenting from a distance, and that's about it for the wider community.
My biggest disappointment with the film -- one that may not bother people who are coming to this story from the outside -- is that it shows us relatively little about the inner workings of the TRC itself. There's an induction ceremony, a scene of the group mulling details of 11/3/79 and another of members meeting with contrite former Nazi Roland Wayne Wood (that encounter is quite moving) and some brief deliberations and then, poof, we're at the release ceremony at Bennett, and then there's a nice coda where the survivors go on their annual beach trip.
Does the movie actually bring us closer to the truth? Sure, to some truths at least. It tells the story of '79 and its aftermath in a coherent if not wholly objective way. Perhaps most importantly, it humanizes people who have been demonized, and that's an important step toward reconciliation.
G:CttT will show again at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Main Theater at N.C. School of the Arts, 1533 S. Main St. in Winston-Salem.