The 1988 film, the Mississippi Burning, based on the true story of the investigation by the FBI into the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. Starring Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand and R. Lee Ermey, it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won the Oscar for Best Cinematography.
“Rupert Anderson” (Hackman) and “Alan Ward” (Dafoe) are FBI agents sent to investigate the disappearance of three civil rights workers in a rural area of Mississippi. The sheriff of the county has close ties to the KKK and is of little help in the investigation. Agent Anderson is a former Mississippi sheriff himself so he understands that this is going to be a tricky matter to handle.
After the bodies of the three are discovered, and the source of the ‘leak’ to the FBI agents turns out to be the wife of a deputy sheriff (McDormand), things intensify. The deputy beats his wife badly enough to require her to be hospitalized and that leads to the kidnapping of the Mayor (Ermey). He is intimidated by a black man in a hood and ends up giving up the details of the murders.
A friend of Hackman’s (A black man) helps scare the kidnapped mayor of the town into revealing the names of the men involved in the murders. The agents use bully tactics to scare the truth out of one of the Klan members. The film ends with snapshots of the guilty members with their sentences beneath them. All but one man is sent to prison.
Most critics give the film positive reviews and it was a commercial success. But some have criticized it for taking dramatic license with a very important event in U.S. history. As evidenced by its Oscar for cinematography, it is a gorgeous film visually and contains outstanding acting performances.