Scene 1: Learning About Where You Live
1. Why is it important to learn about where you live?
2. Why is one of the soldiers able to distinguish
between different kinds of plants whereas the other knows 150 different
kinds of beer? Is it desirable to be able to make fine distinctions?
3. Why does Sam correct the soldier when he speaks
about "the scene of the crime"? What are the disagreements
to which Sam refers?
Scene 2: Disagreements Over the Years
1. Pilar tries to explain the importance of knowing the complexity
of history. What is her argument? Is she correct?
2. Pilar sees herself as caught in between two extreme
positions. What are those positions, and what are the strengths
and weaknesses of each?
3. Whose story is "history"? Can history
Scene 3: What You Mayors Do
1. How does Hollis's attitude about the past differ from that of
Pillar and Sam?
2. Why does Hollis think that Sam might want to believe
that his father was guilty of a murder?
3. Why does the scene take place on a fishing boat?
What is the connection to the opening scene?
Scene 4: The Colonel and His Father
1. Why is Otis called the mayor of "dark town"? What does
2. Why does the colonel seem to resent Otis's position
in the community?
3. The colonel says that people must choose between
Otis's bar and the Holiness church, but Otis disagrees. Why?
4. When the colonel leaves he says that Otis will
be notified of his decision when he makes it. What decision is he
talking about? Is his answer a response to the question Otis has
Scene 5: Our People
1. What is the subject of Otis's museum? Why is it so important
2. Otis's grandson says that the colonel, his father, believes
that everyone starts from scratch and is responsible for what they
become. Does Otis agree?
3. How does Otis describe the relationship between fathers and
4. According to Otis, why did the Seminoles work for the U.S. army
against other Native Americans?
5. How important are blood ties for Otis and his family?
Scene 6: The Colonel and the Private
1. Why did the private join the army? What was particularly appealing
about it to her?
2. What do the colonel and the private think about the large number
of African Americans in the army? How do their views on the army
3. What do the colonel and the private learn from their conversation?
4. Why does the colonel give the private a second chance? Why does
she want it?
Scene 7: Football World
1. Why does Sayles include such a long scene about Bunny's obsession
with football? What does it say about the character of contemporary
communities and individuals?
2. Should we learn as much about our future spouses as coach's
do about their draft choices? Would it make for better relationships?
3. What does Bunny say is the difference between her father's friends
and herself? Does she belong to a more authentic community than
does her father? How does it compare with the other communities
we see in the movie?
4. In what ways is Sam like Bunny?
Scene 8: The Legend and the Truth
1. Is it a surprise that Sam finds Otis and Hollis at the bar together?
What does their relationship say about race relations in the community?
2. What does Sam expect to learn from Hollis and Otis? Is he disappointed
when it does not turn out the way he expected?
3. Why did Hollis kill Charlie Wade and why was it necessary to
hide that fact?
4. Earlier in the movie Otis tells his son that there is no clear
distinction between the good people and the bad people, but does
his story about Charlie Wade support this argument?
5. When Sam thought his father was a murderer he wanted to discover
and reveal the truth, but now that he knows he was not the murderer
he is willing to cover up the truth. Why?
6. Is it better to base a community on the truth or a legend?
Scene 9: Forget the Alamo
1. Sam and Pillar believed that their parents had kept them apart
because of racial prejudice but nothing could be farther from the
2. Does the movie present a more optimistic portrait of race relations
past and present than we might have originally anticipated?
3. Is the taboo against a relationship between siblings merely
another prejudice of the community? What is the basis of that taboo?
4. How important is blood in this case? Does it make any difference
that Sam and Pillar did not know they were related when they began
5. Is it possible that Sam and Pillar could be happy together?
Even if they separate, can they ever forget their past together?
How should they understand it?
6. At the beginning of the film Pillar and Sam wanted to know about
the past, but now they would like to forget about it. Which attitude
toward history does the film endorse?
7. What is the relationship between the theme of family and the
theme of race in the movie? Which is more deep-seated, the tensions
between one generation and the next, or those between races?
8. What are the common problems faced by all racial groups in the
film? Could these common problems be a support for a common community?
1. Is the film optimistic or pessimistic about the future of race
relations in the United States?
2. What does Locke's account of paternal authority and political
authority teach us about the various relationships in the film?
3. To what extent can we as individuals determine our own destiny
and to what extent are we shaped by our parents and community? Compare
and contrast the views of two of the movies' characters with those
of two of authors you have read for this unit.
4. Must we have a color-blind society if we are to achieve racial
harmony? Is such a society desirable or possible?
5. Discuss the attitudes of the various characters in the film
on the importance and place of history in our lives? Do the lessons
we learn about family history apply to political history? What are
the most important of those lessons?