Documentary film on Mississippi brothel owner now available to global audience

Published 7:48 am Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A documentary film chronicling the life of a Natchez brothel owner is finding a larger audience now that the film has been made available via Amazon.

“Mississippi Madam: The Life of Nellie Jackson” was release via the Amazon Prime video streaming service on Saturday.

“It’s kind of monumental because we’ve shown it (“Mississippi Madam”) at about eight film festivals across the country, and we sold out to the majority of our audiences,” said the film’s director Tim Givens, a Natchez-native who now lives in New Orleans. “The whole time we had so many people on social media and whatnot asking us, ‘When can we see it? When can we see it?’ And we kept saying, ‘Just hold on. We are trying.’”

Audiences from the film’s run at eight film festivals totaled about 400, Givens said.

In the film’s Amazon debut on Labor Day weekend, Givens said a little more than 1,000 people had watched the film by Monday afternoon, which is more than twice the number of people who had seen the film since it was on the film circuit last year.

“We tried several distribution outlets,” Givens said, “but Amazon really felt like the right one to reach that many people.”

As of Monday afternoon the movie had a solid five-star rating from viewers.

“In 1902 Nellie Jackson, an African-American woman born into poverty in Possum Corner, Mississippi, travels north to Natchez and opens ‘Nellie’s,’ a brothel she ran for more than 60 years with full knowledge of police and Natchez officials until a fiery end one hot July night in 1990,” reads the film’s description on Amazon.com.

Givens said he had been receiving calls, text messages and emails from people ever since the film was made available on Amazon.

“It means a lot to see comments, emails, texts of people saying, ‘Hey, I just watched your documentary and it is really cool and it hits home,’” Givens said. “It is kind of cool just to see the words ‘Natchez, Mississippi’ up on the TV screen. … I have a friend in San Francisco who was watching it and it is cool to see that it is reaching out that far.”

Givens said he also appreciates positive comments people have left on the Amazon site after viewing the film and comments about the film people have posted on social media.

“Someone on social media said, ‘I’ve lived through that whole time and they told the story of how it actually really was,’” Givens said. “It felt good, because that is what we really wanted to do was to tell the story the best way we could with the people who knew her best.”

Givens said he hopes the film will reach people who aren’t from Natchez as well.

“For people who are familiar with Natchez, or are from Natchez, I would say if you have not seen it, it is a part of Natchez history that is now available to see broadly,” Givens said. “But for people who have no idea about this person you’ll get a chance to watch a film about a human being who persevered through the civil rights era and who had a heart of gold, and you’ll learn about her benevolence and more. The film is kind of a lot about Natchez and a lot about her. I would go as far as to say it is a pretty good advertisement for Natchez, because you get to see the flavor and the character of the town itself.”

“Mississippi Madam: The Life of Nellie Jackson” is available for free streaming for Amazon Prime members and for non-members is available for rent or purchase. Rental is $2.99 for high definition or $1.99 for standard definition and purchase is $9.99 for high definition and $7.99 for standard definition.