We watched with grimaced faces a documentary about Blytheville and Pine Bluff that aired Tuesday night on AETN, our state’s PBS affiliate.
It’s not the first time the program has been on, but it’s the first time we’d seen it.
The documentary focuses on what the filmmakers perceive as two downtrodden Arkansas Delta towns filled with no hope. The Pine Bluff segment still shows our Main Street blocked off and doesn’t even mention the great things that have been going on over the past year or so with Go Forward Pine Bluff.
While we realize this documentary was made before GFPB’s existence, we feel it’s in poor taste to keep running the film state-wide, because it shows an unfair depiction of our great city. There should have at least been a footnote added. We aren’t surprised that it wasn’t, however.
Too often, folks come to our city seeking a story about the great downfall of mid-sized American cities, especially in the Delta. They salivate at the chance to find poor children playing in mud puddles or folks cooling themselves on their rickety old front porches because the insides of their clapboard houses are too sweltering to stand.
These folks see themselves as doing good, but they’re really just perpetuating an ongoing stereotype that we are poor, uneducated folks with no hope. At least that’s how it comes off to us.
We don’t need or want this kind of attention in our city. But if you want to come and make a film about the great things going on here and the great people who are doing what they can to make things better, we’re all in. In fact, we’ll be glad to help.
The filmmakers did everything they could to make our city look like trash. They darkened the colors, made sure to pan in slow motion past mounds of rubble that are no longer on Main Street, and didn’t bother to interview anyone who has hope that our city will, in fact, one day rise again.
It’s important that we fight back against these types of portrayals of Pine Bluff, because this is the image that most people have of our city.
They don’t see the dozens of people working hard to make this year’s Christmas parade a success.
They don’t see the police officers and firefighters who help kids at the fair or put on Halloween parties and other events.
They don’t see Go Forward Pine Bluff and the Urban Renewal Agency hard at work tearing down derelict structures.
They don’t see anything but the marred old buildings that will eventually be torn down or, hopefully, repaired.
There are so many things these folks don’t see. And the things they do portray ultimately hurt our community.
Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t for whitewashing the way things really are. We know times are tough in our city and that there are a myriad of things that need fixing. Still, it’s important to tell both sides of the story. Show the grit, but also show the hope.
That’s our point.
Unfortunately, hope isn’t as sexy on film as hopelessness.