The late architect Samuel Mockbee and Rural Studio, the design/build program he co-founded in rural Alabama's Hale County, are the focus of the newly released documentary Snakebit. The 60-minute film, produced for PBS, explores Mockbee's quest to instill in future architects an ethos of compassion and responsibility, as well as the knowledge and passion to improve their communities' quality of life. The filmmakers are director and producer Sam Wainwright Douglas, producer Jack Sanders, producer Sarah Ann Mockbee (the second-oldest of Mockbee's children), director of photography Dutch Rall, and executive producer Jeff Fraley.
Snakebit draws on never-before-seen interviews with Mockbee to tell the story of Jay Sanders, a young Rural Studio instructor, and a group of students who design and build an environmentally responsible home for an eccentric and destitute Hale County native. Taking place in the year following Mockbee's death from leukemia, the film chronicles the studio's struggle to maintain his guiding spirit and documents its affect on the communities it assists and the students it trains. The filmmakers include both praise and criticism of the Rural Studio from several notable architects and artists, including Peter Eisenman, FAIA; Richard Meier, FAIA; Lawrence Scarpa, AIA; Coleman Coker; and Lori Ryker. Ultimately, say the filmmakers, Snakebit offers a dialogue about what it means to be both a successful professional and a responsible member of society.
Snakebit is scheduled to air on PBS stations in fall 2009. View the Snakebit trailer at www.snakebitfilm.com or on YouTube, courtesy of Archinect. For updates and more trailers, follow the filmmakers on Facebook.