Written by Fumo Verde
It’s a crapshoot the way I do reviews. I read a blurb, maybe see a trailer on website, but most times is a roll of the dice, sometimes you win and sometimes it’s a Drake Bell CD. Most of the time I can count on documentaries to at least bring a small piece of knowledge into my life that I absorb like a Shamwow and this little doc did just that.
I find nothing compelling about moving a house nor Southern white families tracing their roots back to nobles of old Europe or African Americans tracing their roots returning to those houses of those white people who used to own said people. There’s nothing wrong with any of it but I just didn’t think I would be interested. These are the times I love when I’m wrong. Moving Midway hooked me and I never left the monitor.
This is a story of a family, their house, and the slaves who built it. Director Godfrey Cheshire by blood is a Hinton. What or who is a Hinton? Let’s start from square one: John Hinton (1715-1784). This guy came to North Carolina with a land grant from the king of England in 1739 and it is his bloodline that runs through Godfrey Cheshire. Next significant Hinton to make this all possible was Charles Lewis Hinton (1783-1861). Family lore says he built the house at Midway Plantation for his son David. It’s called Midway Plantation because it was the midway point between two other plantations owned by the Hinton family. Charles Lewis Hinton also fathered a son from one of his slaves, and his name was Ruffin Hinton. So right there we have a story line of a family, black and white, coming together to meet each other for the first time. For a history freak like me, this was pretty interesting because you would think people would have issues with others, but everybody was cordial. If there were issues, Cheshire didn’t put it on the screen.
The other story being told was one that demythologizes the lore of a Tara type of plantation. Immortalized by Gone with the Wind, this legendary idea of a huge manor house on vast acres of land was made up. As filmmakers and historians have found out, the southern part of our nation is not covered with plantation houses and cotton fields, yet when the term “the old South” is muttered, this is the concept most bring to the forefront of their mind. It also explores films such as Birth of a Nation, which may be considered one of the greatest films ever by film historians and to this day the only movie which has out sold it was Titanic, or so the expert on the disc tells us, but it reeks with racism and fear of the black man. The ideas conveyed about the South of the past still shadow the South of present, and though time heals all wounds, money and progress can only patch the scars.
The final story is about the house itself and how and why it moved. It seems the plantation was sold off due to a new interstate, which would come right through the backyard of the Midway house. To keep this “plantation feel” the heir of matriarch Mimi Hinton, Charles Hinton Sliver, whose job was to keep the myth/legend of Midway Plantation alive, felt it better to preserve the old house than to be run over by Target. How this move happens is also a sight to see, and Mr. Mike Blake is the man who makes it all happen. With years of experience Blake & Co. treat this house with kid gloves as they slowly hall it through the back lands of North Carolina.
This film, now on DVD, surprised me and I found that it tells more than just the story on the cover. It opens up doors and asks questions while showing us why certain ideas still remain. Two things didn’t surprise me. Number one comes from the white side of the Hinton family: the idea that the Hintons were definitely kind to their slaves because the entire family are so kind and nice, and everybody in jail is innocent, just ask them. Second, comes from the black side of the Hinton family—they wanted to know why the plantation land was divided up and given to all the members of the Hinton family.
Truth is all our bloodlines are connected and can be traced back to algae, it doesn’t mean I can lay claim to the pond. As we change, we still stay the same.