For the Monroe Journal
Itawamba Community College’s film students, including four from Monroe County, had an opportunity in Clarksdale recently to screen a documentary that has been a year in the making.
The screening was presented at a conference entitled “Rolling on the River.”
The film, “Flights of the Mississippi June Bugs: A Greater Truth in Money,” covers the intersection of life and art in the small Delta town, which has three important connections, Bobbie Gentry, Emmett Till and Robert Johnson, according to ICC Films sponsor Morgan Cutturini.
“The town has seen tragedy and musical greatness, both of which inspired much of modern American culture via rock-n-roll and the Civil Rights Movement,” she said.
The Tallahatchie Bridge, to which Gentry’s song “Ode to Billy Joe” refers, is in Money, where she lived just outside of town during her childhood. Till’s tortured body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River nearby, and his open-casket funeral helped spark the Civil Rights Movement. Bluesman Johnson, who is credited with inspiring rock-n-roll, is buried in a cemetery at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Money Road.
ICC’s film students began the project last May when Judge Michael P. Mills of Itawamba County and Oxford invited them to record a Mississippi June Bug conference in Money. Cutturini said the Society of Mississippi June Bugs is an “eclectic group of lawyers, judges, professors, business leaders and others who want to learn more about Mississippi literature, music and art.”
The group also includes Sen. Roger Wicker and his wife, Gayle; Mona Mills; former state Rep. Steve Holland of Nettleton; attorney/entrepreneur Bill Luckett and his wife, Francine; Mississippi Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory; former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James L. Robertson and his wife, Linda; Ole Miss Professor Emeritus Charles Reagan Wilson; Ole Miss Law Professor Hans Sinha; film producer Clark Richey; actress Amye Gousset; entrepreneur Rubye Del Harden; and blues historian Sylvester Hoover and his wife, Mary.
Once a year, usually in June, the group meets at a symposium where members present their papers to discuss a significant Mississippi cultural event and in 2020, they presented papers relating to Money.
ICC’s documentary also chronicles the first Mississippi June Bug Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2019, where members traveled to conduct a symposium on William Faulkner’s novel, “The Sound and the Fury.” Boston filmmaker Jeremiah Sjoberg recorded the conference, and Dr. Philip Meredith of Jackson produced the recording, which ICC’s film students used in the documentary about the June Bugs.
Filmmakers who worked on ICC’s documentary include Telexus Miller of Aberdeen; Peyton Tackett of Hamilton; James Puckett and Baileigh McGillivray, both of Mooreville; Dashanna Harper of Nettleton; Justin Gary of New Albany; Makel Gandy and Matthew Hearn, both of Okolona; Caleb Hall and Charlie Wright, both of Pontotoc; Kylie Seymore of Smithville; and Bailey Phillips and Graham Holliday, both of Tupelo.
At the recent conference, ICC’s students filmed the June Bug members who presented papers on Tennessee Williams. The symposium ended with a concert performed by members of the June Bug band at Ground Zero Blues Club. Co-owner Morgan Freeman joined the band on stage for “Let’s Stay Together,” which was originally recorded by Al Green.
At both conferences, former ICC film students trained current students in various areas of filmmaking. The students are editing this year’s conference video, and the current documentary will be available on YouTube in July.