BOFT Films title

“All men are created equal.”

That phrase from the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence serves as the foundation of a new film that was produced by the Battle of Franklin Trust and was shown Thursday night in a private screening at the Franklin Theatre. 

Titled The Battle of Franklin and The American Experiment, the 74-minute documentary traces the American experience from when the country’s founders laid out the principles, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, from the Jim Crow Era to Civil Rights, and finally to a hopeful outlook. 

“We were founded with particular principles, and you’ll hear this throughout the documentary, that all men are created equal,” BOFT CEO Eric Jacobson said in introducing the film to BOFT board members, media and others from the preservation community. “And we hammer hard that the founders meant that. These weren’t cheap words. They meant it, and thus, the Civil War put that very idea — that premise, that promise that the founders granted to us — to its greatest test. And, of course, at the center of that very debate is slavery.”

Jacobson led a pre-screening panel that discussed elements of the film, the first in the organization’s newly created division, BOFT Films. There are plans for a number of short films to be produced, as well as other feature-length documentaries as time and funding permit.

Others on the panel consisted of Bari Beasley, CEO of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County; Braxie Jacobson, Eric’s 21-year-old daughter who produced and directed the film; and BOFT staff Ethan Castelo, Shelia Mullican and Brad Kinnison.

Jacobson said he and the filmmakers had been working on bringing the documentary to light for the last 12-18 months.

“I often have a lot of crazy ideas, and one of my crazy ideas was, I thought we needed to do something new about the Battle of Franklin,” he explained. “That was really the simple approach, but also to do something different.

“We settled on one theme beyond the Battle of Franklin, and that was the American experiment. What we really wanted to tell people, and hopefully to teach people, is that the American experiment is something that’s been going on now for almost two and a half centuries. And it has not been an easy road.”

The film is speckled with scores of images uncovered through extensive researach, many of which powerfully illustrate how uneasy a road the country has indeed traveled. 

“There are some images in this documentary that are very difficult to see,” Jacobson said. “There are some images throughout the Jim Crow Era that will make some of you very uncomfortable, and I think that’s exactly the intent.”

The film will have a general public debut Thursday before a sold-out crowd at the Franklin Theatre, and BOFT has plans to make it more widely available through possible future screenings, DVD sales at the Carnton gift shop, on YouTube and in schools, among other means.

Though it is dark in places through rather gruesome images and in the narrative, The Battle of Franklin and the American Experiment is ultimately a light to the future. 

“We end this whole thing on what I believe to be a hopeful note,” said Kinnison, a tour guide at both Carnton and the Carter House. … “I think it builds up to the idea that we should take some amount of pride in who we are. That’s not to say that we’ve crossed some sort of finish line as a country, but that we are heading in a certain direction. I think it’s a direction our Founding Fathers laid out for us in the Declaration of Independence, with the idea that all men are created equal.”

Click here to see a trailer for the film.