written and directed by john sayles
John Sayles’s cross-cultural murder mystery explores the borders that create interpersonal and interracial tensions in Rio County, Texas. Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) is called to investigate the discovery of a skeleton of a murdered man buried in the desert forty years ago, and is drawn deeper into dark secrets held on both sides of the border when the trail leads to the now-deceased father he grew to hate, local legend and former sheriff Buddy Deeds. While Sam puzzles out the long-past events surrounding the mysterious corpse, rekindling a romance with his old high-school flame, an Army colonel who is losing his faith in the military (Joe Morton) has to confront his own, still-breathing father. Deftly interweaving the present and the era of the killing, communities and characters thought to live merely parallel lives are brought face-to-face as the plot draws to its startling finish. Cooper and Morton are supported by Matthew McConaughey, Kris Kristofferson, Elizabeth Peña, and Frances McDormand. Sayles’s most widely-seen film (which garnered his second Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay) is frequently taught in high school and college film courses as well as American Studies and other disciplines.