Other Side of Eden review: Video Librarian and Booklist

Other Side of Eden review: Video Librarian and Booklist

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Video Librarian Review
The Other Side of Eden: Stories of a Virginia Lynching (2018) 57 min. DVD: ISBN: 978-1-88852-239-6. Directed by Tom Davenport, along with Shawn Nicholls and Dylan Nicholls, this unsettling documentary reconstructs terrible events that occurred in and around Markham, VA, in 1932, when a 39-year-old African-American man named Shedrick Thompson attacked the white patriarch of an estate called Edenhurst. The victim, Henry Baxley Sr., was beaten unconscious, and his wife, Mamie Baxley, was dragged away to a nearby forest, raped, and left for dead (but survived). The reasons for Thompson’s viciousness remain unclear to this day, although there has always been speculation that Thompson, a World War I veteran, was angered by Mamie scolding him over his treatment of his own wife, who cooked for the Baxleys. A massive manhunt followed the violence, and two months later Thompson was found lynched and decomposing. In a rush to provide a legal cover-up, the county coroner declared Thompson’s death a suicide, although an abundance of gruesome evidence suggested otherwise. The fascinating part of this film lies in the story’s telling, which is largely related through passed-along lore from descendants of the Baxleys and Thompsons, as well as from amateur historians who have assiduously chased down the facts for years. A fascinating documentary about heinous crimes whose legacy still appear to hang over this Virginia community, this is highly recommended. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)

Booklist Review

On a July evening in 1932, according to local lore, Shedrick Thompson violently attacked Henry and Mamie Baxley in their home before raping and abducting Mamie and disappearing. Several months later, when Thompson’s body was found hanging from a tree, it was ruled a suicide. In this probing documentary, inspired by Jim Hall’s book, The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia: Seeking Truth at Rattlesnake Mountain (2016), filmmaker Tom Davenport uses archival photos, interviews with locals, and commentary by Hall to piece together the crime and subsequent lynching. Baxley’s family say that Henry was a fair employer and supporter of Thompson’s wife, Ruth, who was a cook in the Baxley home. The film also explores the racial climate during this era and speculates on reasons Thompson turned to violence. Although offering no firm conclusions, this thought-provoking program glimpses historic racial and criminal issues. The college and university price of $249. The title is also available on Blu-ray.

— Candace Smith