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Citizen Architect | Film 2010 | SXSW

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Published on Feb 8, 2010

Snakebit is a 60-minute documentary film on the late architect Samuel Mockbee and the radical educational design/build program known as the Rural Studio that he co-founded deep in poverty-stricken Hale County, Alabama. Mockbee was a celebrated architect, artist and educator who instilled his passion and philosophy in those he believed will become a new generation of 'citizen architects.' Snakebit is a rich, probing film that shows how a group of young architects' empowered by Mockbee's belief in making the world a better place' use their ingenuity and compassion to provide housing for people who their profession all too often overlooks.
Guided by interviews with Mockbee, the film follows a twenty-six year-old first-time instructor at the Rural Studio as he leads a group of 20 year-old students in the process of crafting a custom home for their charismatic, destitute client, Jimmie Lee Matthews. Known within the community as Music Man because of his obsessive passion for soul music, Jimmie Lee maintains a healthy zeal for life, blasting R&B from his collection of used stereos and boasting that he 'ain't never met a stranger!' His infectious, optimistic attitude despite decades of hard living rubs off on the students as they form a strong bond with him throughout the film.
The film supplements this fly-on-the-wall footage with perspective from Mockbee's peers and those he has influenced. The dialogue offers both praise and criticism of the Rural Studio approach and presents a larger discussion about education, citizenship and making the world a better place.

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