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1997 ABCNEWS VideoSource Award: Big Jim Folson: The Two Faces of Populism

By IDA Editorial Staff

A crowded room of smiling faces from Robert Clem's 'Big Jim Folsom: The Faces of Populism.'

Produced by Robert Clem and Cindy Kirkpatrick
Written and Directed by Robert Clem
Photography by Stephen Moe, Ken Resnick, Jeny Kelly and Robert Clem
Music by Donald Stark
Distributed by Foundation for New Media, Inc.
56 min.

This is a film about a Southern road not taken, a reevaluation of Alabama's recent history. Six foot eight inch James E. "Big Jim" Folsom was twice governor of Alabama (1941-51, 1955-59) but lost his bid for a third term when he was defeated by George Wallace in 1962. The years between Folsom's unexpected populist revolt of 1946 and Wallace's defiant inaugural speech of 1962 ("Segregation... today, tomorrow, forever") are a defining period in Alabama's history and—by extension—the South as a whole. For many, Folsom was a "common", a man whose personal flaws were an embarrassment to the state, whose self-destruction on the race issue was almost a relief. Defeated, Folsom was relegated to history's scrap heap. In this film, we can see him as a man of remarkable foresight and rare political courage.

A native Alabaman, ROBERT CLEM received his MFA from the Graduate Institute of Film and television at New York University. With an AFI grant, he produced Ready to be a Wise Man (1987) about a boy's reaction to racism in 1950s Alabama. He has been a fellow at the Sundance Institute, recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Southern Humanities Media Fund, and has worked on National Public Radio, the Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel.