It’s Grits is a charming B&W documentary by director Stan Woodward, filmed mostly through interviews with Southerners, done on what was probably a minuscule budget. Even though the movie was celebrating its 32nd anniversary this year, it still feels fresh because this documentary style is all the more common now in films. With the thesis that, “Everyone from all walks of life in the South eats grits,” Woodward creates his delicious palate and draws the viewer into the delicate story line. After countless confirmations of his thesis in South Carolina, he takes us up north to New York, New York, where, at an ethnic food fair (which looks like it is on the Brooklyn waterfront close to where the movie screening took place), he asks people if they like grits. Most people don’t know what it is, but don’t seem to care; one guy offers him falafel instead, convinced it’s the better choice.
The majority of the movie is filled with humorous, endearing encounters and images. There is even a “Grits cheer” at a football game in South Carolina, and an interview with a man who eats his grits with a dollop of peanut butter. But the undertone is that the agriculture and industry based around corn in the South is faltering, and it needs revitalization. There are a lot of images or corn mills and machinery alongside interviews with the mill owners and corn growers, and they seem all the more depressing in black and white. This was 30 years ago, and a lot has changed since then, but the North/South divide still exists in spirit.
If we can ever reach an accord regarding this deep divide, grits might be the answer. Following the movie, we took part in a Grits “takedown” in which 30 local chefs prepared their own take on grits, and we viewers/participants got to sample each one and vote on our favorite. It was a wonderful experience and a well-run event, and most (if not all of us Northerners) left happy and full of grits.