Neshoba - A film by Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano
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A Film by Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano

Critical Response


“NESHOBA is a troubling documentary, a film about fiery passions and murderous deeds that is disturbing in ways that go beyond what might be expected…It’s strength is its clear-eyed picture of a situation that is far from simple and still not completely resolved.  It displays the worst and best of America, the racism that will not die and the passionately concerned citizens who come together and effect significant change.”   –Kenneth Turan


Fascinating and troubling… history is richly present in Neshoba, (yet) it is not only of historical interest. It was a Mississippi writer, after all, who observed that ‘the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.’ This film is a document of hope, progress and idealism but also a reminder that the deep springs of bigotry and violence that fed a long, vicious campaign of domestic terrorism have not dried up.” – A.O. Scott


Neshoba” reopens the debate: How was this allowed to happen? How do we move forward? Some questions, this compelling movie reminds us, still require answers.”  -S. James Snyder


CRITICS’ PICK! “Seriously disturbing…gains raw power thanks to unrepentant racist Edgar Ray Killen’s unlikely cooperation with the film.”


The highly responsible documentary peels back the layers of simmering rage and blinding denial that linger in Neshoba County, Miss., culminating in the long-delayed trial of the man who pulled those deadly strings 46 years ago…Neshoba knows better than to stand from the rooftops and scream. It’s a patient film, full of disparate voices, and it captures the process of justice in action. Just as important, it digs deep into the question of how wildly different sectors of the community view that process. — Chris Vognar


The tools used to tell the tale (particularly old newsreels, family photos and seldom-seen crime scene and autopsy photos) are masterfully employed.  Within the first 15 minutes, Dickoff and Pagano milk tear ducts (iconic newsreel footage of a young Ben Chaney weeping as he sings “We Shall Overcome” at his brothers funeral has lost none of its power to devastate), and then use that emotion to fuel the rest of the film. — Ernest Hardy


The arm of justice proves very long indeed in “Neshoba,” which recounts efforts to retry the ringleader behind the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, four decades later. Accused Edgar Ray Killen’s surprising cooperation with the film — which doesn’t flatter him at all — and some townspeople’s lingering indifference make this a disturbing peek at how little some people have changed, as well as an inspiring portrait of others’ determination to see crime punished at last…potent content should ensure an extended life in broadcast and educational markets…riveting.        — Dennis Harvey


“Provides a fresh perspective on history...The film cogently and movingly demonstrates how the U.S., even with its first African-American president, can’t be post-racial until it deals with its living history of racism.” – Nora Lee Mandel


Reveals that although many have belatedly come to embrace the notion of universal brotherhood, some still remain inveterate racists willing to go their graves waving the flag of intolerance…A cinematic sifting through the ashes of Mississippi smoldering!  –Kam Williams   Grade: A


“Incredibly effective at showing how a small town gets past its history of racism and senseless violence.” – Josh Kurp


“Alarming…fascinating and so effective.” – Cynthia Fuchs


“The filmmakers provide not just a thorough context, but paint a picture of a county frozen in time… Like a sociological forensics team working on a cold case, they spotlight intriguing clues.” – Lauren Wissot


“A must-see for anyone concerned with the state of tolerance in the U.S. … a terrific blend of historical, ethnological, legal, human rights watch and biographical portrait film” – Christopher Campbell


“A stunning up-close-and-personal look at Killen, as well as many other seminal figures of that 1964 event. It’s something that anyone interested in American history should see.” – Debra Kaufman


“Gripping and thanks to remarkable access Killen granted to the filmmakers, a cautionary tale about apostles of “states’ rights” as a perverted form of liberty.” -George Robinson


“Gut wrenching…fascinates and disturbs.” – James van Maanen


FOUR STARS.  Moving, intelligent, thought-provoking and never less than evenhanded. –Joe Neumaier


The powerful movie is vivid proof of William Faulkner ’s adage that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – Rick Warner


A valuable lesson in truth not dying, Neshoba: The Price of Freedom is a timeless reminder there are still many in this country believing some American citizens deserve second-class status and therefore we must look to the cameras and courts for justice.


Neshoba: The Price of Freedom is gripping and eye-opening.  Filmmakers Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano balance valuable reportage and engrossing storytelling.  Normally, a film like Neshoba would find its audience through cable or public television, but this work is so well-done that it might just have an impact theatrically, as it should…Given how President Barack Obama, the first African-American U.S. President, has been demonized and threatened by the right wing with some of the same names used against the civil-rights workers of the 1960s, Neshoba: The Price of Freedom is not only timely but urgent. – Eric Monder


Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano’s documentary Neshoba: The Price of Freedom tells this sweeping, powerful story with a conciseness that packs an emotional and philosophical wallop.


Through candid interviews with the shamefully ignorant Killen as well as families of the victims and Neshoba folks of all walks, the filmmakers piece together a compelling and important account of an American town’s process of self-scrutiny and reconciliation that resonates with an entire nation. Sadly we leave the film reminded that despite efforts like Edgar Ray Killen’s trial to bring light where ignorance still thrives, racism is alive and well.


Neshoba, the newest documentary produced and directed by two-time Emmy Award-winner Micki Dickoff, working with Tony Pagano, explores issues of truth and reconciliation in Neshoba County four decades after the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers outside Philadelphia, MS, which was the basis of the Mississippi Burning plotline. Seen September 18th, in the New York International Independent Film Festival, Neshoba received a standing ovation in the fully-packed Village East Cinema space. The value of truth-telling as groundwork for justice-and not only for reconciliation between citizens but also for a community to come to terms with its own past-was a major theme of the film…This latest twist on Mississippi justice makes [this film] only more timely. — Anne Mollegen Smith


Neshoba follows Killen throughout the trial, and for the first time gives us Killen’s chilling racism in his own words. Interviews with family members of the three victims ground the film in reality of the events of that summer, and the comments of residents make it clear the city of Philadelphia and Neshoba County are still divided more than forty years after the murders…The resulting film is a surprisingly balanced treatment of a potentially explosive situation, one that provides real insights into a society that produced state-sponsored terrorism…And when you see it, don’t get up to leave before the final credits, because they provide one last powerful and disturbing insight into the massive injustices of our nation’s recent past. –- Film Critic, Seattle, WA


While Killen comes across as an old-school bigot who makes repeated quips about commie-Jewish-Christ killers, the film nonetheless presents him as a scapegoat. The point is simple: Killen did not act alone. Gripping and compelling. — Eleanor J. Bader


Neshoba is a profound film that reminds those who were around in 1964 that a good fight must never end, and one at the top of the to-see movie list of those too young to know about these horrible injustices. — Diana Saenger


An excellent documentary…I hope someone gets this film distributed; the subject matter is compelling, and the artistry with which the film was shot and edited makes it stand out above many independent documentaries. –Kim Voynar, Movie City News


The most interesting thing is the way the film penetrates into the tightly sealed society of Neshoba County and shows how a guilty conscience has frozen the community in time…it’s a shock. — Brandon K. Thorp


Neshoba (***1/2) A strong documentary about the efforts of citizens in Philadelphia, Mississippi to get the state to prosecute Edgar Ray Killen…What really sets this film apart is the directors amazing access to Killen who blames the victims parents for letting them go on the trip…This is an expertly made documentary with superior editing that really delves into a frightening part of our history. — Larry McGillicuddy, Film Critic, Atlanta


The filmmakers scored a major coup when “Preacher” Edgar Ray Killen, the man “everyone in town” knows was behind the crime, agreed to participate in the making of the documentary during his 2005 trial…fascinating. — Kelly Vance


Killen, still staunchly racist and confident of exoneration, cooperated with the makers of this compelling documentary, which avoids simplistic self-righteousness in favor of troubling questions about racial reconciliation and still-unredressed injustices.  — Festival Review (MR) 


This documentary takes you inside the courtroom and reveals the truth behind this infamous crime which defined a generation.  Told with spell-binding precision, this film should be seen by all who remember in hopes we never forget. — Festival Review


Insightful, honest, and harrowing.  One of the most important movies I’ve ever seen.  And proof that apathy can be as hurtful, destructive and, yes, evil, as direct involvement. — Audience Review

 A provocative look at race relations that forces us to question how far we’ve progressed since 1964 when three young men sacrificed their lives to change racial injustice. — Audience Review

 A thought provoking insight into a racist’s mind, and how a community comes to terms with its past in order to move forward. — Audience Review

 The film stunningly exhibits the injustice, treachery, and torture that have pierced our collective American biography…There’s a beauty in how it’s put together.  We felt like we were there, living different sides of the story. — Audience Review

 Amazing, provocative, disturbing in every good way. — Audience Review


A tremendous documentary! Not only tells the brave story of the victims, but explores how passion and ignorance can result in violence.  The tie-in with today’s ‘debates’ are unspoken yet unquestionable.  A great film. — Audience Review

Fantastic story, sad but moving. The directors do a great job of letting us wonder what happens in the end. Fans of documentaries or thrillers (actually) will love this film. It’s a real life, no joke, dramatic thrill ride into how evil some humans can be. — Audience Review


Absolutely wonderful. The story was finally told. I hope this makes it to the “big” screen, for all to see and enjoy. Great movie! — Audience review

Amazing. I want a copy and I want everyone I know to see it. I want to watch this with my son, who will never know a world where a black man can’t be president. Thank you. Very powerful. – Audience review

Everyone should see this masterfully done movie. A piece of American history that nobody should forget…ever! — Audience review

Inspiring and unforgettable. I loved the juxtaposition of past and present, good and evil. Kept me on the edge of my seat.  — Audience review


Neshoba” is a true gift to any viewer privileged to see it! A story of the choice between hope and hatred with a narrative that will leave you shaking and teary-eyed long after the credits roll while looking promisingly towards the future of the South and this country! — C.C. Harrison, Audience review

The movie was awesome.  I was brought to tears on many occasions…Go see this film. It’s a heart wrenching piece of American history and what is being done today in Philadelphia, Mississippi is truly a beautiful thing. –Rob Rubinoff, One Peg Genius, Audience review


“Neshoba” moved me to tears.  Among the year’s most important films because it makes us face our history — the good, the bad and the ugly– while at the same time offering hope for our future.  A must see film for all Americans.  — donnie betts, Judge, INDIE MEMPHIS

This is great stuff. Filmmakers Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano gained absolutely amazing access to Killen; they’re even in his home with him the night before the verdict in his case is due to be delivered. — Indie Memphis


“Neshoba” is a great film…truly inspiring and a cause for hope.  The most fascinating part of the movie is the unfettered access they got to Killen, and some of the vile things that come from his mouth.  A well made, powerful movie. — Jason at Docfest


Micki Dickoff was born a New Yorker, but her father was born in “the only Jewish family” in a small Mississippi Delta town. He knew discrimination. At 16, Dickoff wanted to return to her ancestral home state to participate in the Freedom Summer of 1964, a project that attempted to register African Americans to vote. The film “Neshoba,” which Dickoff and Tony Pagano directed, is the culmination of a 44-year quest…”The wound keeps festering – even a wound that’s 44 years old.”  — G. Allen Johnson


The second-best movie of the decade. — Ben Guest