I can't believe I saw two movies about racial politics in Alabama at SXSW this year -- not what I would have expected. Both approached the issues in different ways, and both films were good. While The Order of Myths (which I reviewed already) focused on Mardi Gras in the Gulf Coast city of Mobile, the documentary Bama Girl takes us further north to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to examine a tradition popular at many American universities: the selection and crowning of the Homecoming Queen.
Bama Girl focuses primarily on Jessica Thomas, a senior at the university who is determined to win Homecoming Queen. The problem is that a number of the white fraternities and sororities plus other unnamed organizations have formed a covert group known on campus as The Machine. The way in which the Homecoming Queen is elected on campus favors The Machine, which is why no African-American woman has won the crown since the rules change. This all sounds like paranoid fantasy and crazy student rumors, but when you see a staff member in the Dean of Students office talking seriously about The Machine, you start to wonder. Anyway, Jessica isn't going to let any secret society keep her from what she wants. She and her sorority sisters get to work to get her elected.