“Are You from Dixie?” Finding One’s Place Amos Lassen I am from Dixie—born, raised and educated in New Orleans and I have watched as symbols of the old South have been taken away. This film is about two Latino brothers with opposing views about their American identity who search for their place in a modern South. I recently learned that what I thought were tributes to great men were only “scarred Confederate monuments” in the land of the racially divided and the struggling middle class. This is what the two brothers, Manny and Ramon Castillo, feel although I must say that in New Orleans I was never aware of this (aside from the monuments to Confederate soldiers.) I understand that the idea for the film came to director Art Arutyunyan from a conversation he had with his frequent collaborator Armand Petri (who plays Ramon Castillo. Petri began talking about Confederate monuments and the controversy surrounding them in New Orleans. From that conversation, the script evolved into a story of brotherhood and family responsibility, both universal and personal subjects. I just one to make a personal note here. Everyone has something to say about the removal of the Confederate monuments and I have noticed that. Great deal of what has been said has been done so not by people who live in the places where the monuments are located. I grew up with this kinds of monuments for a good part of my life and really never paid them any mind and neither did I ever think about the Confederacy and the role it played in building New Orleans. Now that I live in Boston, we are getting some of the same controversy with the names of schools being changed because the original names belonged to slaveholders. Slavery is part of American history and it is our onus but I am fascinated how this controversy has brought it back into the spotlight again. Now back to the film. We meet Ramon and Manny (Drake Malone) as they share information on how to survive with each other and we immediately realize that the two are total opposites.Ramon is a traditionalist and believes in responsibility while Manny is a millennial ease and cares nothing about “the once-again brewing racial tension in the South.” The brothers had only been raised apart but in two different countries so in the film, they each represent a distinctive voice in the times when having a different opinion can cost one his job, his home and even his life. They find themselves in the midst of the Confederate Monument saga during which the South is divided into two polar opposites.
I understand that the film was shot in Southeast Louisiana about
the time when the “Lee Circle” statue was removed in New Orleans and
the debate was at its peak. Lee Circle was like the Statue of Liberty to many
New Orleanians and we often used it in giving directions around town. I never
once thought of it as a Confederate monument—it was just Lee’s Circle.
We share the brothers’ journey from their own opposites to where they see each other with more understanding and compassion. It is an amazing transformation and everything about the film is good (well, not everything but I found it to be most definitely deserving of praise). These days we are filled with confusion and we host conflicts but one thing I can say for sure it that the South is not going to rise again.