Scott Carney ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
On August 3, 1952, in Live Oak, Florida, an African American woman named Ruby McCollum went into the office of beloved town doctor C. Leroy Adams and shot him dead. The circumstances surrounding the murder and its aftermath are the subject of John Cork’s fascinating documentary You Belong to Me: the Ruby McCullom Story.
In terms of documentaries, this one feature techniques that are not particularly new, such as talking head interviews of historians, townspeople, and McCullom’s family, as well as actors dramatically reenacting events. However, this is not a criticism for these clichés help contribute to what makes the film stand apart, which is the way it presents the story of the murder. What is so intriguing about the way this film is put together is how the mystery unravels. The murder is established early on in the film, with new twists and turns revealed throughout that shows McCollum’s motivation to commit in the first place. The interviews and reenactments become the purveyors of this information, and that the film structures these reveals is as thrilling as any great crime drama. It is also through these revelations that McCollum’s story turns from a mere history lesson to a story of great modern relevance.
Without giving too much away, the primary motivation for the murder is presented as being due to racist and sexual actions that Ruby was subjected to. In this era of the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the fight against rape culture being more prevalent then ever, this story serves as a good reflection of the modern times. Perhaps most importantly, the film establishes that this type of racism and tolerance of sexual abuse does still exist, with one interviewee even claiming that perhaps Ruby helped provoke the abuse she faced. With that being said, the film only really scratches the surface of these modern day issues, and does not do much to add to the conversation about them besides acknowledging they still exist, something that already seems to be widely known by most people. Furthermore, because it is a historical story, the film does not present a very strong case to those who are still in denial about the existence of these issues in today’s society.
Still, there is no denial that the story of Ruby McCollum is a powerful one, and the film is one that deserves to be seen. The producers of the film have already discussed plans to turn Ruby’s tory into a feature film adaptation, and while it will be curious to see how the dramatization of these events with Hollywood actors turns out, this is already a thrilling mystery film that will keep you on the edge of your seat until you know the full story of Ruby McCollum.
Overall Grade: A-