While I crank out a steady diet of disposable vignettes, a friend of mine focuses on far more resonant fare. You all remember Dustin Miller - my old cohort and collaborator from The Stupid Years. Back then, he was a snickering college kid with bangs in his face and a sputtering Volvo full of REM bootlegs. Upon entry of his first TV establishment, he fell under the sway of a strangely eloquent camera-dork and together we tore through the corridors of one badly aging CBS affiliate. These days Dustin’s all growed up and living in Wilmington, where he’s the director of UNCW’s Department of Media Production. Academia, however, hasn’t encumbered Dustin’s storytelling verve. He continues to produce potent documentaries - and his latest just may be his greatest.
The Marines of Montford Point weaves together archival photos and survivor interviews to chronicle the segregation of black Marines in World War II. Trained at Montford Point, North Carolina, many African-Americans Marines fought and died in the Pacific Theatre and elsewhere to precious little acclaim. It’s reported that even combat photogs of the day assiduously avoided recording any non-Caucasian valor. It’s the kind of deeply woven racism that turns battle footage into war propaganda, lessening the value of those captured images considerably. Now, Dustin and company seek to reconcile this particular sin of the moving image.
Written and directed by , UNCW Professor Emeritus Melton McLaurin, the hour long documentary is narrated by Lou Gossett Jr., who bagged an Oscar for detonating his role as the explosive drill instructor in An Officer and a Gentleman. More importantly, the Montford Marines themselves took part, sixty of them sitting down before Dustin's cameras to lead the way back through their painful, pioneering ordeal. Last week, about forty of those men attended a premiere screening, where they later commiserated with far-flung foxhole buddies as well as Gossett himself. My buddy was there too, giving soundbites to a curious press and explaining how the University is aiming for a national audience by pitching their film to PBS, BET and The History Channel. My only hope is that at some point during the gala evening, he realized just how far he'd come from roaming the halls of Channel Nine after midnight.