In Birmingham they love the governor. In Paris they love the Freedom Riders.

I just returned from five days in Paris to celebrate Grandpa Was a Freedom Rider, a great new documentary by Martial Buisson, a young Parisian filmaker. That's Buisson, above, between Riders Bob Zellner (left) and Lew Zuchman, who also came over for the premiere.    

Opening night was a beautiful spring evening. The movie was screened on a barge-turned-theater docked in the Ourcq Canal, in the Parc de la Villette in northeast Paris. Martial and his team had done a great job outfitting the barge for the event.  

Bob Zellner, Gabriel Junod, Adrien Blondel and Lew Zuchman. Junod edited the documentary. Blondel is Buisson's co-director; the two traveled the United States in a rented RV a little over a year ago to interview Riders. In addition to Zellner and Zuchman, the film includes interviews with John Lewis, Paul Brienes, Ellen Ziskind, Hezekiah Watkins, Charles Person, Margaret Leonard, Joan Mulholland and Dion Diamond.  

Over 200 people attended the opening. The man in the center wearing a tie is Philipe Buission, Martial's father.

John Meldrum and his great 20+ person choir, the Highlites, sang movement songs and more before the screening. Meldrum wrote the soundtrack for the movie.

Blondel and Buisson talking after the screening.

Opening night was great fun, but even better were the series of events that Martial & Co. had put together for the days that followed. The documentary was shown and Zellner and Zuchman spoke three times for different groups: middle-school students from all over Paris, college students and community organizers, many of whom were members of SOS Racisme, a French anti-racist group. Above and below, some of the middle-school students who saw the movie at an event at City Hall. In addition to these events, Buisson, Zellner and Zuchman also did a number of interviews for local media about the project.  

Buisson and his editor, Gabrial Junod, are coming to Mississippi later this month for Return of the Freedom Riders, the 50th anniversary event in Jackson May 22-26, and Grandpa Was a Freedom Rider will be screened several times during the week.