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ODU Professor Developing Dismal Swamp Documentary

Imtiaz Habib, a professor of literature at Old Dominion University, is currently developing a documentary, tentatively titled "Dismal History," that examines the history of runaway slave populations living in the Great Dismal Swamp before the American Civil War.

"With this film, we interrogate popular knowledge and popular history," he said. "This is a subject that historians have largely ignored and dismissed."

The film focuses on unearthed archaeological evidence of runaway slaves residing in the Great Dismal Swamp, a marshy region that stretches between southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. According to Habib, archeological evidence suggests that various populations, including local Indian tribes, lived in and around the swamp as far back as the17th century.

Co-producing the film with Habib is Richard Green, a junior English major at ODU, who is handling most of the cinematography work for the film. He said that he got involved in the film in part because of his passion for filmmaking.

"I also have a strong conviction to uncover hidden histories of people who have been forced to exist on the fringes of mainstream society," he said. "The documentary encompasses both of these aspects."

"Dismal History," half of which was filmed on site in the swamp itself, features interviews with archeologists, researchers and historians such as Dan Sayers of the College of William and Mary, Cassandra Newby and Tommy Bogger of Norfolk State, Brent Morris of Cornell University.

Habib, who is making the film as a personal side project, said that he hopes to have the film out within the year. It will be screened at both Norfolk State and in Deep Creek.

"We're in the final stages now," he said. "We hope it will be good."

This article was posted on: June 10, 2008

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