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A documentary by Brad Bennett & Chris Haley

40 minutes, color, 2021

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Throughout the South, vast numbers of African-American gravesites and burial grounds for enslaved persons have been lost or are disappearing through neglect and nature reclaiming the solemn tombstones and markers. Recently, there has been a rise in the restoration and preservation of these forgotten sites by those who have a personal connection with the deceased or an appreciation of their historical significance.

But there is much work to be done in order to preserve this part of America’s history. Unmarked not only explores these untold stories of the past but also the efforts underway to preserve them.

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"Powerful. Unmarked is about how these memorials are yet another manifestation of history’s injustice. It features the archivists, archaeologists, volunteers and descendants who are searching for and restoring African American cemeteries and burial sites. Their efforts are a reclamation of the histories that have been buried and neglected by a dominant society keener on commemorating the slavers instead of the enslaved." - Radheyan Simonpillai, The Guardian

"★★★★! This intriguing documentary is part of the growing public interest in the preservation of African American burial grounds. 'This is an outdoor archive,' says Brian Palmer, a Peabody Award-winning journalist and volunteer at Virginia's East End Cemetery. 'That incredible joy of finding someone's relative, and then being able to learn something about that person, and to realize we’re kind of rebuilding a community's history.' Historian Lynn Rainville notes that 'it's a stroll not just then through the past, but a stroll that can provoke questions about our future and where we're headed.' Leading that journey to inspire discussion by families is Unmarked's timely take about an important topic." - Common Sense Media

"On the surface, the idea of looking for graveyards might seem like a waste of time. But, in the case of abandoned slave burial grounds, it’s less a struggle to preserve cemeteries than it is a fight to save history. Said history has been whitewashed and sanitized, it has had the rough edges smoothed over and made more palatable to a country that doesn’t want to confront a shared sin. What the subjects in the short documentary Unmarked are struggling for, in essence, is the idea that their ancestors deserve the same dignity and respect as everyone else’s. This struggle is tenderly documented by co-directors Chris Haley and Brad J Bennett, from a script by Imani Chach, Christopher Haley, and Austin Journey." - Film Threat


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Read The Guardian's feature story on Unmarked

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