Moving Midway - A Documentary by Godfrey Cheshire

About The Film

What is a Southern plantation? A relic of a bitter, divided past? A vanished realm of aristocratic charm and elegance? An impediment to the modern South’s frenzied effort to turn itself into an anonymous landscape of superhighways and strip malls?

Or, perhaps, all of the above, plus something else as well: a site for understanding and reconciliation, a meeting place of past and present, black and white.

A locus of home, family, enduring traditions…and new beginnings. 

When New York film critic Godfrey Cheshire returns home to North Carolina in early 2004 and hears that his cousin Charlie Silver plans to uproot and move the buildings of Midway Plantation, their family’s ancestral home, an extraordinary, emotional journey begins.

Charlie’s plan is a controversial one within their extended family. Some fear the move will destroy Midway. Others worry about the reaction of the plantation’s ghosts, including Miss Mary “Mimi” Hinton, Midway’s eccentric owner when Charlie and Godfrey were kids.

There’s another group who may be concerned too. Charlie says he was recently visited by a man who claimed that their family has a large, previously unknown African-American branch, due to a liaison between Midway’s builder and a plantation slave.

Back in New York, Cheshire fortuitously encounters Dr. Robert Hinton, an NYU professor of African-American studies who says his grandfather was born a slave at Midway.

While beginning a dialogue on the meaning of Midway from their very different perspectives, Cheshire and Dr. Hinton examine how the Southern plantation, a crucial economic institution in early America, generated a powerful, bitterly contested mythology that was at the center of a string of American cultural milestones, from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Birth of a Nation to Gone with the Wind and Roots.

Back at Midway, efforts to move the plantation buildings to make way for a new shopping center result in a suspenseful, visually spectacular odyssey across an otherworldly landscape. But Midway’s move isn’t its final surprise.

After the old manor house and outbuildings reach their new foundations, Cheshire makes contact with the some of the African-American cousins whose existence he had never suspected. Their interest in the past they share with Cheshire’s clan means that, by the time of its reopening, Midway’s “family” has been forever redefined, its past illumined in ways that cast a new light on the South’s (and America’s) status as a mixed-race society.