Movies Filmed in the Delta
What to watch before you visit
By Jenny Adams
Cotton fields stretching, the tidy green rows neat and flat as a ruler. Sunbleached, white paint announcing “Fried Catfish!” across old brick buildings under impossibly blue skies. Historic churches. Historic radio stations. Historic gospel and soul music. Historic homes and banks and hotels and cotton gins.
The Delta crops up (excuse the pun) in films because it’s a landscape and a time capsule like no other. It’s a change-nothing setting ideal for period pieces, be they pre-Civil War or the 1960s. It lends a fantastical quality––from the sky, the Mississippi’s alluvial floodplains create a snake across the earth––and down below, a cast of characters exists so wild and weird and wonderful, it reads like page-turning fiction.
Whether you’ve lived in Carrollton or Itta Bena your whole life … or you’re planning a weekend visit to Greenwood, we’ve got a great list of movies to watch, all filmed in the Delta.
O Brother Where Art Thou, 2000
Filmed In: Itta Bena, Leland and Yazoo City
This backwoods, comedy interpretation of Homer’s The Odyssey, directed by the Cohen brothers, follows three humorous convicts as they escape a Mississippi prison workcamp in the 1930s and attempt to outrun a ruthless lawman. It stars George Clooney––a ne’er-do-well devoted to his wife and hair pomade––and John Goodman as “Big Dan Teague,” the directors’ version of the cyclops. In this case, he’s a crooked bible salesman.
One viewing and you’ll be ordering the soundtrack. However, also be on the lookout for the scene focused on robbing the Itta Bena Bank. It’s is actually Bank of Yazoo City, and when the blind man predicts their future, that scene was filmed in Leland.
The Reivers, 1969
Filmed in Carrollton
How could a William Faulkner novel adaptation for the big screen be filmed anywhere but Mississippi? The film stars Steve McQueen and Will Geer and large portions of it were filmed in Carrollton. The plot follows young Lucius, played by Mitch Vogel, and Steve McQueen as Boon––his grandfather–– as they steal a car and head for Memphis. The 11-year-old learns to be a reiver, skilled in lying, fighting, stealing and gambling. As you drive into town on Highway 82, look right and you’ll still see the advertisement that featured in the film, reading “Furniture and Coffins” on the side of the town’s museum today. At one point, it actually was a store that sold both home items and coffins.
The Help, 2011
Filmed In: Greenwood
Aibileen’s House is at 203 Taft Street, and Skeeter’s home is 8322 County Road. Hilly’s house is 413 Grand Boulevard, but you don’t need to write all these down. You can actually take a self-guided film tour, with a digital map that keeps you on track to visit all the filming locations. The film plot focuses on Skeeter––a would-be reporter, capturing the lives of Black housekeepers and the injustices they face, in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. The film was nominated and won multiple awards in 2012, including a nomination for Motion Picture of the Year at the Oscar’s and a Golden Globe for Octavia Spencer, as Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Click here for information on “The Help” tour in Greenwood.
Mississippi Masala, 1991
Filmed in: Greenwood
This movie follows the path of an Indian family, originally residing in Kampala, Uganda, who flees the dictatorship of Idi Amin and relocates to Greenwood, Mississippi. Mina, the daughter in the film played by Sarita Choudhury, falls in love with Denzel Washington, who plays Demetrius––a local carpet cleaner. The secret relationship and the pains of exile and racial tension create the dramatic bent of the film, and it earned an 81-percent from Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, it’s not streaming at the moment. Your best bet is to order the DVD on Amazon.