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Movie Review

John Sayles’ Lone Star is as much sociology as it is cinema. The film portrays the lives of many individuals across three generations living in a Spanish border town called Frontera, itself Spanish for border. The film opens with the discovery of the skeletal remains of what is presumed to be the former hard-nosed corrupt Sheriff of Frontera, Charley Wade. Charley used to instill social structure and order on the people of Frontera with the barrel of a gun and an open pocket. The discovery of the remains is significant because it occurs on the eve of the dedication of a monument to the Sheriff who took over after Wade’s death, Buddy Deeds, the father of the present Sheriff, Sam Deeds. Rumor runs rampant in Frontera, and Sam is worried that his father may have been responsible for Charley’s murder. His determination to resolve the situation sets the film in motion, but before it is resolved we will come to understand the lives of many people in the town.

Frontera’s social structure and social environment is controlled by the 10% of the town’s population that is white. The other inhabitants of the town are minorities, and their status and role is perceived as less than that of the whites in charge. This multi-ethnic mix creates a lack of social integration among the members of the town. Stereotypes against blacks and Mexicans abound, and the social setting is segregated. Blacks have their own pub and seldom are whites and minorities seen socializing together. Blacks are only comfortable in Otis Payne’s bar, and they are often subjected to racism and prejudice, not to mention a fair amount of violence and abuse from Sheriffs like the dead Wade. Mexicans are also outside the power elite, as is evidence by a scene in the local high school. We see a Mexican working class teacher, Pilar Cruz, complain about the interpretation of the Alamo in school textbooks. Of course, the white power elite believes their “...

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