More a work in progress than a completed docu, “Lillie & Leander: A Legacy of Violence” remains a deeply unsettling tale of blood-drenched racism deserving of widespread publicity. Producer Alice Brewton Hurwitz was 20 when she heard of her great-great-aunt’s rape and murder in northern Florida in 1908. More horrifying was the discovery, years later, that vengeful relatives boasted of killing black men who ventured near their property. Helmer Jeffrey Morgan compiles Hurwitz’s own videos with footage of the hamstrung search operation, making for a chilling investigation sure to get airtime on PBS.
Leander Shaw was lynched when the dying Lillie Brewton Davis fingered him for her savage rape and mutilation. Decades later, her descendant, Hurwitz, was told by cousin Joe Brewton that it became a family game to murder black men, burying their bodies under a tree. Repulsed by the discovery and wanting to know more, Hurwitz gathered volunteers from the local university to help search for remains, but paltry funding, family pressure to hush it up, and ingrained black reticence resulted in inconclusive evidence. An unnecessary re-creation is counterproductive to tone, but searing issues rise above flaws.