Documentary explores lynchings and how they've shaped our history

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The ugly history of lynchings in America is examined in "Always in Season," a documentary whose ambitions exceed its reach. 

Director Jacqueline Olive focuses in on two storylines — one about a potential real-life 2014 lynching, the other about a Georgia town's historical reenactments of a violent incident from years back — that don't compliment one another as much as they step on each other's toes.  

The more involving of the two stories centers on Lennon Lacy, a teenager who in 2014 was found hanging in the backyard of his Bladenboro, NC home. The death was quickly ruled a suicide by local authorities, and Olive makes a compelling case he was actually lynched, although the "20/20"-style investigation (which lacks the participation of investigators) doesn't yield any conclusive results. 

The other focuses on townspeople of Walton County, Ga., who every year perform a re-creation of the 1946 lynchings of two married couples in what came to be known as the Moore's Ford Lynchings. Olive begins by showing footage of the live theater event, jarring in its raw intensity, before pulling back and revealing it's a staged event. The actors involved explain why it's important to relive the event, so as not to shy away from the history of it but to try to learn from it.

On their own, either storyline is a worthy subject, but mashed up they feel incongruous. Just as the Lennon storyline pulls you in, Olive switches gears, and the re-creation carries significantly less thematic weight than the current case. "Always in Season" takes on a hefty, important topic, but would benefit from a more balanced approach. 

'Always in Season'

GRADE: C+

Not rated: Thematic material, violent imagery

Running time: 90 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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