The film is set in the town of Jackson, Mississippi. In the early 1960s rich white people still formed the establishment there, while African-Americans had to content themselves with poorly paid and undervalued jobs. The young white Skeeter Phelan, portrayed by Emma Stone, can no longer bear the situation. She is astounded by the unjust treatment the black housekeepers of white families have to put up with, and decides to write a book from the point of view of the undervalued maids. Aibileen and Minny, two maids working at friends of Skeeter’s, are the first who are willing to cooperate in her secret book project. After getting the approval of her publisher, who wants to publish the book to coincide with the March on Washington, Skeeter interviews more maids. She gathers all sorts of perturbing stories about the ups and downs of the rich white families in Jackson and forges a close friendship with the maids. When the book is finally published, it leads to a wave of indignation and shame in Jackson.
The Help is based on the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, who grew up in Jackson. Despite being fictitious, the film paints a very clear picture of society in the southern United States at the time of the March on Washington in 1963. Most African-Americans initially did not dare to oppose the unjust policy of racial segregation, afraid of arson, death threats and other reprisals. It took a lot of courage and guts to publicly question and condemn this situation in the way that Martin Luther King and civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who was assassinated in Mississippi, did in those days.
When The Help was released in 2011, the film was showered with awards. Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for best supporting actress for her portrayal of help Minny. She was also awarded a Golden Globe, and in her acceptance speech thanked Martin Luther King, quoting his words: ‘All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.’
The Help (2011)
Director: Tate Taylor
Available on DVD/Blu-ray