Film Screening

'Outta The Muck,' a Documentary About Black Life in Florida, Screens Tuesday Night at Fogartyville

This Florida narrative of love and power celebrates community, family and a unique history of Black achievement.

By Yasi Bahmanabadi November 14, 2022

The documentary Outta the Muck—which will screen Tuesday night, Nov. 15, at Fogertyville Media Arts Center—features the town of Pahokee, Florida, the poorest city in an otherwise glitzy area of Palm Beach County.

Locals call the city of less than 6,500 residents “the muck” because of its rich soil, which makes it ideal for growing sugar cane and other crops. Located along the shores of Lake Okeechobee and within the Everglades on the ancestral lands of the Seminole and Miccosukee, Pahokee is named for the Seminole word meaning "grassy waters."

However, agriculture isn't the town's only claim to fame. Despite wide-reaching poverty, the majority Black and Latino city has forged more than 40 athletes who have made it to football stardom in the NFL.

Film writer Ira McKinley, who's from Ithaca, New York, has roots in Pahokee. His parents fled the small, southeastern Florida city in the 1960s to escape overt racial discrimination.

McKinley was doing research for his first collaborative work, The Throwawaysa 2014 documentary on police brutality and mass incarceration in the Black community—when he came across the book Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town, by Bryan Mealer. Set in Pahokee, one of its protagonists happened to be McKinley's cousin. That personal discovery led the McKinley to develop Outta The Muck, which he directed alongside Bhawin Suchak.

“I thought it was the time for me to go down to Pahokee and do a film. I talked to Sam Pollard, a great mentor who was teaching at NYU film school and was a mentor for The Throwaways. He agreed it would be a good story,” McKinley says.

Work on the film kicked off in 2015 and took seven years due to pandemic-related delays. However, Outta The Muck has earned nationwide critical acclaim since its first October screening in Nashville.

McKinley, who's featured as a football coach in the documentary alongside his niece and nephew, explains that the story's message addresses the racial stigma of violence in Black communities.

“There's a stigma about poor Black people. We want to show those communities are not a threat or scary,” McKinley says. “You’ll see a film about love, where a community puts the youth first. We want to show love and peace and how people hold each other up and succeed."

The public is invited to a free screening of Outta The Muck on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center, 525 Kumquat Court, Sarasota. Click here to reserve your seat.

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