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Synopsis: RESTRICTED TO NY ONLY
Papaw Land is a coming-of-age drama set in rural Arkansas. 17-year-old Matthew is slipping into a cycle of alcohol and drugs that looks all too familiar to his single mother, Christy. In a desperate bid to break the cycle, she sends him away for a summer of sobriety and honest work at his grandfather’s place in the Ozarks. Against the hum of cicadas, Matthew comes to know the generational abuse that has happened there— secrets that change how he looks at those closest to him, and at himself. Justin Blake Crum’s debut feature film is a patient and affecting case-study in how toxic masculinity and inherited trauma shape this underrepresented slice of America.
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Carson Mitchell (Matthew")
Spring Hunter (Christy)
Tyler Winn (Robbie)
Larissa Ware (Emily)
Heather Steadham (Paula)
I grew up with a hero. Both me and my brother adored a man named Junior Mitchell. He won a medal in World War II, built things with his bare hands, and was funny as hell. He would take us fishing, and tell us stories on the riverbank for hours, just to make us laugh. That’s how we knew him, as a loving grandfather. Later in life, my mother told me about a different kind of man, the one Junior Mitchell used to be. You see, when my grandfather was a younger man he was an abuser, or a “tormentor” as my mother called him. Verbally, physically, sexually, everything. He was the worst offender. My hero.
“I don’t want you to think badly of him,” my mother would say. The truth is, it never crossed my mind. My grandfather had already proven to me who he was, through years of visits, phone calls, and letters. I didn’t question who he was in his old age, but I did question how such a good man could do such bad things. And if it was possible for him, was it possible for me? Could I do something like this to someone I love?
This film was born out of the realization that I’m capable of doing all the things my grandfather did. My faith tells me that evil rests in the heart, in the soul, in the mind. If you think it, you’re capable of carrying it out. I could abuse, I could rape, I could murder. It’s all possible, it’s all in me. If I continue in ignorance, I’ll inflict pain just like my fathers before me.
For me, Papaw Land is about a character who realizes what he’s capable of, and finally asks the question- what have I done that has caused others pain? Am I the old Papaw, who didn’t care about anyone but himself, or am I the new Papaw, who loves even when it’s hard? We have a chance to prevent the abuse my mother and many others have suffered, by living a life critical of our own words and actions.
Justin Blake Crum is an award winning filmmaker, who previously directed, edited, and produced the concussion documentary Bell Ringer, which aired nationally on PBS and the World Channel in 2017. It won a 2017 Mid-America Emmy for Best Directing, and was nominated for Best Documentary and Best Editing. In 2020, he was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship by the Arkansas Arts Council for his original screenplay, Sons & Daughters. In 2021, his debut narrative feature film, Papaw Land, premiered at the St. Louis International Film Festival and continues playing at film festivals around the country. Born and raised in Northern Virginia, Crum is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, and currently resides in Conway, Arkansas.