Published: Sep 23, 2008 04:16 PM
Modified: Sep 23, 2008 04:16 PM
House and history saved in moving 'Midway'
One on One
"A fascinating and complicated story of regional identity," wrote New York Times film critic A. O. in praise of a North Carolina film that opened in the Big Apple this month.The film, "Moving Midway: A Southern Plantation in Transit," is now showing in North Carolina. It is noteworthy for reasons other than the favorable reviews of a New York critic."Moving Midway's" creator, Godfrey Cheshire, is well known as a writer about films, though not as a filmmaker. A Raleigh native and graduate of UNC, he now lives in New York. He has earned a national reputation as a perceptive observer of films made by other people.For some time, he has wanted to find a project that would give him a chance to turn his critical knowledge of the art into practice. That opportunity came when he learned that his cousin, Charles Hinton Silver, planned to move his family's pre-Civil War plantation home away from the increasingly crowded outskirts of Raleigh to a more pastoral setting in keeping with its original setting.Documenting the mechanical and engineering challenges of picking up a gigantic house and moving it a long distance could, by itself, make for an interesting story.But Cheshire had more of a story in mind. He wanted to capture the family members and their memories of their experiences in the old house. He knew that some of them would have mixed feelings about detaching the house from the land and its surroundings. The Hinton family had owned and occupied this land since pre-Revolutionary times, and there were the spirits of ancestors to deal with.The saga of the move combined with the extended Hinton family's reactions to the house's relocation would, thought Cheshire, make for a poignant story if he could capture it on film.After the project was underway, something happened to make the "Moving Midway" story even more moving for the viewer.It turned out that the extended Hinton family was even more extended than Cheshire first thought.Shortly after he began work on the "Moving Midway" project, Cheshire ran into another Hinton in New York. Robert Hinton, also a Raleigh native, is a Yale trained historian. His grandfather had been born on the Midway Plantation -- in the slave quarters. Coincidentally, Robert Hinton is a scholar of North Carolina history, focusing on the region's transition from slave to free labor.Cheshire persuaded him to sign on the project as consultant and later as associate producer. With Robert Hinton's help Cheshire wove into the film a serious examination of the southern plantation as expressed in the "Tara myth" of "Gone With the Wind" against the actual experiences at Midway.Today's North Carolina is so different from that represented by the past days of the old Midway Plantation that it is sometimes tempting to minimize or disregard our history. But our future can be much better if we learn how our past influences who we are and will be.A good place to start is "Moving Midway," which deals with different perspectives of history and the common love of land and family against a backdrop of the uprooting consequences of urban growth.Every North Carolinian should see this film.
D.G. Martin will talk about this column on WCHL-1360 Sept. 24 at 8:18 a.m. with Ron Stutts and at 6 and 10 p.m. with Godfrey Cheshire and Robert Hinton.
2008 The Chapel Hill News