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LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton is a 2001 American documentary film directed by Deborah Dickson, Susan Frömke and Albert Maysles. It was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 74th Academy Awards.[1]

LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton
LaLee's Kin- The Legacy of Cotton.jpg
poster of "LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton"
Directed byDeborah Dickson, Susan Frömke, Albert Maysles
Produced bySusan Froemke
Music byGary Lucas
Distributed byMaysles Films Inc.
Release date
  • June 22, 2001 (2001-06-22) (New York City)
Running time
89 mins.
CountryUnited States



LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton has two storylines, both of which show the impoverished life of residents in the American South. The documentary draws the connection—a vicious cycle—between poverty and the lack of education opportunity for black people living in the Mississippi Delta, over 150 years after the abolition of slavery.

Laura Lee (LaLee) Wallace, a great-granddaughter of a slave, is an illiterate 62-year-old woman who has been living all her life in Tallahatchie County, one of the poorest in the United States. She has one surviving son, nine daughters, 38 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. Her daily living consists of many difficulties: LaLee has to raise many of her grandchildren, her son is continually put in prison, and most of her daughters have to leave Tallahatchie County searching for work. LaLee's life is heavily dependent on the cotton industry; she struggles to earn a living by cooking lunches for people working in local cotton factories.

Reggie Barnes is the superintendent of the West Tallahatchie school system, which is put on probation by the state due to poor standardized test results. The school has the hardship of trying to educate the children of illiterate parents. If it fails to raise the annual standardized test scores, the school will be taken over by the state.

Production and releaseEdit

The documentary is noted for using the direct cinema techniques, thus creating a "more intimate and confronting work."[2]

The film was shown at the Seattle International Film Festival (May 24–June 17, 2001) and participated in the Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (January 18–28, 2001).[3] LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton was released theatrically in New York City on June 22, 2001.[3] The film was released on DVD in 2010.


Critical reactionEdit

LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton received highly positive reviews by the critics. The documentary received a score of 78 out of 100 at Metacritic based on 5 reviews.[4] The New York Times's critic A. O. Scott praised the film as "an exemplary work of cinéma vérité that allows its subjects to speak for themselves."[5] TV Guide rated the film 3 out of 4 stars.[6] Meanwhile, Variety magazine considered the film "an especially humanistic entry in the Maysles canon."[7]

Nominations and awardsEdit

LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton garnered a nomination for Best Documentary Feature at both the 74th Academy Awards and the 2002 Independent Spirit Award.[8][9] Veteran documentarian Albert Maysles won the "Excellence in Cinematography Award" at the Sundance Film Festival.[10][11]


  1. ^ "NY Times: LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
  2. ^ Two fine examples of "direct cinema" from World Socialist Web Site
  3. ^ a b's%20Kin:%20The%20Legacy%20of%20Cotton.html?dataSet=1. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  4. ^ LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton from Metacritic
  5. ^ 'LaLee's Kin': Pride, Hope and Hardship in the Land of Cotton from The New York Times
  6. ^ Lalee's Kin: The Legacy Of Cotton: Review from TV Guide
  7. ^ film review Archived 2010-08-05 at the Wayback Machine from Variety magazine
  8. ^ "Full list of Oscar winners and nominees". The Guardian. London. February 12, 2002. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  9. ^ Film Independent's Spirit Awards | Search Past Nominees - Results Archived 2008-02-10 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Sundance Film Festival 2001 - The Winners Are". Archived from the original on 2005-10-21. Retrieved 2008-07-24.
  11. ^ Blog, Chaz's. "Believe it or not". Chicago Sun-Times.

External linksEdit