USA Today - 02/21/1997
"...A pair of superb performances gracefully break the mold. Jon Voight delivers a complex and ultimately sympathetic portrayal..." -- 3 out of 4 stars
Entertainment Weekly - 03/07/1997
"...[Singleton] works with a solid, emotionally heated craftsmanship....He gets a fine, soul-troubled performance out of Jon Voight..."
Los Angeles Times - 02/21/1997
"...An impressive film....Its message continues to be relevant..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 02/21/1997
"...[Singleton] handles his big cast effortlessly, establishing a good sense of community life....A well-made film that tells a gripping, important story..."
Based on a true story, ROSEWOOD takes place in a predominantly black Florida town in 1923. A woman in the neighboring town of Sumner, beaten by a lover, falsely claims that a black man assaulted her, thereby providing an excuse for her redneck townspeople to head for Rosewood with rifles and nooses. Ultimately, her lie engenders an unbelievable tragedy that is redeemed only by the heroism of those who endured it.
In 1923, the town of Rosewood was destroyed by the residents of nearby Sumner. Director John Singleton leaves his familiar Los Angeles milieu to tell the story of that destruction, in which poor whites indulged their prejudice and envy, avenging an accusation that they knew was a lie. A white woman, seeking to hide her infidelity with an abusive man, blames her injuries on a black man; at the same time, a stranger named Mann (Ving Rhames) has appeared in Rosewood and is put under suspicion. Mann is not a historical figure, but John Singleton's reason for imagining him becomes clear--Rhames portrays a mighty savior whose ability to stand up for his people provides the only emotional solace amidst the film's relentlessly unjust carnage. As he did in HIGHER LEARNING, Singleton avoids portraying all the whites as evil, focusing especially on the real-life figure of John Wright (Jon Voight), a white Rosewood storeowner who finds his conscience when the people he has come to know need his aid. The faithful re-creation of the town enhances Singleton's vision, and makes the 1920s in rural America seem as remote as the Old West.
Black Heritage |
Black History Month |
Race Relations |
Theatrical Release |
Limited theatrical release: December 20, 1996; wide theatrical release: January 17, 1997.
The film was shot in Lake County and Sanford, Florida, in the vicinity of the original Rosewood.
John Wright's house remains on the site of Rosewood.
The events that took place in Rosewood were kept secret until 1982. That year Gary Moore, a reporter on an assignment for the St. Petersburg Times, happened to notice that Florida's Levy County had no black residents. His subsequent investigation turned up 20 survivors of the incident. He published the story of Rosewood, which was covered by 60 MINUTES in 1983. The state of Florida payed reparations to the families, but placed the number of deaths at only eight. Historians came to believe, however, that the total number of people killed was in fact between 70 and 250.
Arnett Doctor (played in the film by James Edward Coleman II), a survivor of Rosewood, had researched the event extensively, and spoke to Singleton and his crew. A version of the escape on the train actually occurred.