A Binding Truth: Review

A Binding Truth: Review

A Binding Truth: Review. By Connor Walsh.

The film A Binding Truth (2023) opens with a stadium of players warming up, music booming in the background as a man in the crowd reminisces on his time playing football. That man is Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick, the subject of this documentary. The film follows the career and life of Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick while contrasting his journey with that of  Hugh D. Kirkpatrick, a classmate of Jimmie’s, who is tied to Jimmie’s family through slavery

The film follows Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick a black football player who in 1965 left Secondary Ward High, a public highschool for African Americans, to enroll in the predominantly white highschool of Myers Park High in order to join their football team which had more opportunities to advance his football journey. At the time of Jimmie’s transfer to Myers Park High, legal segregation was only abolished a year prior, with societal and socially enforced racism and segregation remaining rampant. Many African Americans continued to endure adversity and discrimination despite the changes in laws, Jimmie made this transfer not just for himself but for other black Americans. During the time of his enrollment Jimmie learned of a white classmate named Hugh “De” Kirkpatrick. It was later on in life through his own research into his family name that he discovered the connection their last name held.



The film weaves Jimmie Lee’s career in football with his search for the truth about his family ties and how he learned Hugh D. Kirkpatrick’s great-great grandfather enslaved Jimmie’s great-great-great grandfather. As noted by the film you can not escape the effects of the past in the present. Jimmie’s research into his family tree eventually inspired Hugh to investigate their shared history with Jimmi’s ancestors. Hugh used his experience as a forensic psychologist to examine the lack of morality of slave owners. Slavery and race relations have warped our entire lives and the impacts are still felt today–this documentary seeks to examine the many ways our lives are connected and not always for the better.

I felt that this film was a fascinating look into two interconnected lives and ways modern families can learn from the past about fractured race-relations within America. The documentary bounces from De and Jimmie’s lives and the different paths they took from their days at Myers Park High. I believe that the story of both Kirkpatricks is a worthy and compelling tale about racism in America while noting the chunky and disjointed editing this film unfortunately has.  

I wanted to like this documentary more but maybe if it was more central to De and Jimmie’s relationship and that it did not deviate for extended hours about their own personal lives. If these elements were  weaved in a cohesive manner I feel it would make for a powerful statement on the damage racism has done and how society can come together to heal old wounds. Unfortunately the film didn’t delve into more of their special bond and their connection through their experiences both on and off the field. This is an important story but it is a little unfocused on what exactly it wants to say and constantly juggles between many different viewpoints. 

A Binding Truth is a powerful film about race relations in America. We cannot advance as a society without having important uncomfortable discussions that one needs to have to be able to move forward by examining the past. Their story ultimately does not come together as strongly as it should due the filmmakers could not overcome the challenge of weaving together the lives of Jimmie and Hugh Kirkpatrick in a smooth manner. I hope Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick’s story is continually examined so that the way hate has fractured the world we live in can eventually heal.


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