The Courthouse

The geographic and cultural center of many rural southern towns is often the courthouse. William Faulkner's quote from Requiem for a Nun depicts these iconic southern structures as the repository of the lust and passions of a community. Pittsboro NC's courthouse was destroyed by fire on March 24 2010. Documenting the rebuilding and history of the building the film reveals a communities sense of place.

  • Michael O'Connell
    Mountain Top Removal,Bimblebox,Grassroots Stages
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    25 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 10, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • LomgLeaf FIlm Festival
    United States
    May 13, 2017
Director Biography - Michael O'Connell

Michael Cusack O’Connell
Originally from Reston, Virginia Mike currently resides in Pittsboro, North Carolina. After studying at the College for Recoding Arts in San Francisco California he landed a job mixing sound and lights at the venerated jazz venue Blues Alley in Washington DC from 1982 through 1989. At Blues Alley Mike mixed sound and lights for many well known jazz artists including Wynton Marsalis, Sarah Vaughn, Stanley Turrentine, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins among others.
Michael has received two regional Emmy Awards. The first for his cinematography work on Watch Me Play a history of professional women’s basketball. The second for his cinematography work on AMA- ZONE a children’s program exploring the search for Biopharmaceuticals in the Amazon Rain Forest. Michael was selected twice as a CPB American delegate to the International Public Television Conference first for the 2005 Input in San Francisco and for Lugano, Switzerland in 2007. In 2005 his independent production company Haw River Films released the musicalmentary Grassroots Stages, which was distributed nationally on PBS.
Mountain Top Removal was the second documentary feature release from Haw River Films. Mountain Top Removal received the Best Documentary Jury award at the 2007 Charlotte Film Festival and first place from the Mion Solutions Environmental Film awards. In January 2008 the film won a jury award at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, California. In April 2008 Mountain Top Removal won the Reel Current award selected and presented by the Honorable Al Gore at the 2008 Nashville Film Festival. Also in April 2008 the film premiered at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In August 2008 the film won the audience award for best documentary feature at the Woods Hole Film Festival in Woods Hole MA. Mountain Top Removal was distributed Internationally by OPTL London and on PBS nationally by NETA. Other Film Festival screenings include: Cucalorus Film Festival, Planet In Focus Film Festival Toronto, Canada, International Festival of Mountain Film in Slovenia, Cleveland International Film Festival, Athens Film Festival and The Appalachian Film Festival.

Mikes third feature documentary Bimblebox was completed in 2012. The feature documentary explores the development of the worlds largest coal mines in Queensland Australia. The documentary premiered at the Byron Bay Film Festival where it was nominated for the Best Documentary Award. Bimblebox was distributed in France on Ushuaia TV and screened at numerous film festivals in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Mikes newest film is the The Courthouse. The project is a co production between Haw River Films and UNC-TV, Mikes current employer where he now works as a producer director. The Courthouse had it's film festival premier at the Long Leaf Film Festival on May 13 2017 in Raleigh NC.

In Nov of 2016 Mike produced and directed the documentary Childe Hassam and the Isle of Shoals for UNC-TV. The documentary was nominated for a Mid-south Regional Emmy Award in 2016.

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Director Statement

This movie started as I was returning from work in March of 2010 and saw smoke coming from the cupola of the courthouse. Fortunately I had my camera with me and started filming. Over the course of 3 years I was able to document the rebuilding process. I'm a big fan of southern literature so the chance to include the Southern Gothic aspect of our towns history was part of the motivation to create the film.