Waco has gotten hip with visitors streaming in to shop, dine and tour various landmarks. But how many folks, even current residents, know the fascinating history of the city. A new documentary, What About Waco, will explore well-known topics from a new light. The documentary will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 6, and Friday, July 7, at the Masonic Grand Lodge at 715 Columbus Ave. A reception with cash bar will begin at 6:15 p.m. The evening is presented by the Historic Waco Foundation and KWTX-TV.
What About Waco was written and directed by Chris Charles Scott, a Baylor alumnus who was awarded the 2016 Documentary of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. The documentary has four separate episodes that focus on particular aspects of Waco’s history.
“I was nervous about not finding topics but anxious about if they would be interesting to Wacoans,” Chris said. “I was worried that some of the topics we selected, like the Bridge and the 1953 tornado, were played out in the city. But digging through the history, I found that most residents knew surface-level facts about the city’s most notorious and infamous events but there were these beautifully intriguing stories that wove themselves through these topics.”
“A Bridge over Troubled Water” is the dramatic and enthralling story of the building of the Waco Suspension Bridge. This episode will begin with the story of Waco’s founding along the Brazos, investigate the city’s decades long “lover’s quarrel” with that river, and celebrate and indict the Waco heroes and villains who had a hand in either constructing or exploiting the bridge.
Part 1 and 2 of “About Three Years in Waco,” looks at the end of the Gilded Era that marked some of Waco’s greatest and most horrific times. Between 1916 and 1918, the community witnessed the construction of a massive army base, the end of legalized prostitution, the public extra-legal lynching of a teenager, and a sky full of revolutionary Jenny biplanes. This intriguing episode will spotlight, sex, murder and war, three things looming over Waco during a pivotal time.
The documentary concludes with “A Mighty Wind.” The story of the devastating 1953 Waco that killed many and ravaged the city of Waco is not unfamiliar to the town’s residents. But if you think you know all about the tornado, think again. A Mighty Wind will the hidden stories found in the rubble of the storm’s destruction.
“Each episode has controversy and tension,” Chris said. “This was deliberate in that we did not literally white wash this town’s darkest incidents. This is not to shine Waco in an unpleasant light, but to actually shine a light for Wacoans to address some of these tensions that still linger in the city today. My hope is that this series, like the suspension bridge attempted to do, will bring the two sides of Waco closer to understanding one another.”
Chris relied on several folks well-versed in either local history or film making. MCC professor Bradley Turner, an MCC professor, served as head consulting historian on this project.
“I chose to join this project because I believe that it provides a fresh insight into both popular and unpopular historical topics, through a highly interactive medium, which connects to our city and helps its people experience its colorful past in order to further appreciate its current renaissance,” he said.
What About Waco was produced by local businessmen Hobby Howell and Matthew McLeod.
"Waco's diverse culture and rich history have always fascinated me. Like many Wacoans, I've been saddened by recent media coverage which largely ignores what makes Waco so great. When the opportunity presented itself, I was happy to support a project which cast a positive light on Waco and sought to tell the interesting stories that made Waco what it is today," Matthew said.
Hobby echoed this sentiment. "Waco's history is rich and has been told in different ways. As a fourth-generation Wacoan, I could not pass up the opportunity to help tell stories of our past with such a talented documentary film maker who brings a fresh perspective and new information that his research has revealed," he said.
Tickets to the documentary premiere are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit wacodocumentary.com.