Always in Season is an eye-opening look into the
grotesque practice of lynching that plagued parts of the United States. The
film addresses historical accounts and current lynching reenactments, and it funnels
down to a single family that suspects one member was lynched as recent as 2014.
While the documentary offers a lot of content – most of it beautifully shot and
achingly paced – it also feels too broad to be truly engrossing and is missing
parts of the story in its investigation to feel satisfying.
Claudia Lacy lost her 17-year-old son, Lennon Lacy, in 2014.
After wishing him goodnight and going to bed, Lennon was discovered the next
morning hanging from a swing set in Bladenboro, NC. His death was ruled a
suicide by authorities, but Claudia believes her son was lynched. The majority
of the documentary follows this story, including interviews with Claudia,
Lennon’s older brother, Pierre, and other relevant parties, like a medical
coroner and a local newspaper.
It’s in this story that the documentary feels like it
doesn’t trust its viewers to have the right opinion of the circumstances. So,
it doles out perspective-changing information in chunks throughout the film.
For example, when the circumstances of Lennon’s death are juxtaposed with
B-roll of Confederate flags, it’s easy to imagine white supremacists carrying a
rope tied in a noose on the prowl for their next victim. It’s not until halfway
through the film that audiences see that the hanging device was actually a
contraption fashioned from belts, which gives the impression of something
hastily done rather than premeditated.
Then it’s not until the last third of the film that
audiences are presented with Lennon’s girlfriend at the time, Michelle Brimhall,
who was nearly twice Lennon’s age. She also had left her husband, had three
children of her own, and was suspected of being a prostitute to support her
drug habit. She’s also white, and the film tries to point to the interracial
couple as a motive for Lennon’s possible killer. There’s even some documentary
sleight of hand where an audio clip of a man who speaks in the cadence of a
news anchor states that the interracial relationship is a suspected cause for
Lennon’s death, but it’s unclear if the audio is actually from a news outlet.
None of this is to say that Lennon wasn’t lynched or that
his death wasn’t racially motivated. There’s just not enough evidence presented
in the film to be convincing of those interpretations. And the fact that the
film doesn’t explore other explanations, like a fight with one of Michelle’s
alleged Johns gone bad, is disappointing. There’s also some animosity for the
police and how slowly they worked on Lennon’s case while quickly determining
his suicide. Yet, Director Jacqueline Olive never presents the side of the
investigators. It doesn’t even seem like she made the attempt. If they had
refused to talk to her, then that would have helped reinforce suspicions that
the police force was hiding something. Instead, suspicion now falls on the film
for leaving out pieces that feel necessary to see the whole picture.
In retrospect, what engrosses me the most in this film is
the lynching reenactment group, which comprises both white and black actors
from the community. The group shares its struggles with finding white people to
play the lynch mob, with many actors backing out at the last minute. At least
one white reenactor has personal familial history with the Ku Klux Klan, and
she seems to participate in the reenactment as a form of absolution. I wish the
film had focused on this story and these people since their backgrounds,
personal struggles, and the reactions to their performance felt the most
I had never heard of lynching reenactments before, and to
see these people bringing them to life heartened me. Black and white people
were working together to make sure injustices were never forgotten. And for a
few frames in the film, it looked like different racial groups were healing the
divide between them.