HSFF Film Review: A Town Called Victoria world premieres at Hot Springs Film Festival, then on PBS

A Town Called Victoria is a three-part docuseries from director Li Lu that recently had the world premiere at the Hot Springs Film Festival. When I received the notice about the film’s premiere, I was interested that it was about a town in Texas and one that I was personally aware of and experienced a few decades ago. I know what the city was like back then, and without returning, I am not aware of all that has transpired since. One thing is to hear about national news over six and a half years ago, and another is to view a docuseries that brings forth the images, footage, interviews, and more about the citizens, community, and history.

I admit the first episode of this docuseries pulled me into the story as it introduced the Muslim community of Victoria. There is no way to describe it, but viewing the footage of the local mosque in flames in January 2017 made me emotional. It is hard to watch, but the news should be seen in case we missed it. Episodes 2 and 3 provide more information on the suspect and commentary from various community members.

A Texas town is thrown into the national spotlight when the local mosque erupts in flames. After decades of harmony, the small Muslim community of Victoria watches their cherished place of worship reduced to ash. With the fire ruled an arson and a local man arrested as the suspect, this small South Texas town must confront its troubled history and its consequences in the present. From the trial of the suspect to rebuilding the mosque, A Town Called Victoria presents a nuanced portrait of a community confronting hate in its midst and grappling with deep-seated racial, religious, political, and economic rifts to find a collective way forward.

A Town Called Victoria will be released on November 13th on PBS and everywhere you stream content (Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Comcast, etc.). The specifics of the PBS broadcast date are as follows: Episodes 1 and 2 will air on 11/13/23, followed by Episode 3 on 11/14/23. The PBS Passport Window has an early special preview for PBS donors to local stations available now. Visit the Austin Film Society website for news on their event in November.

Directed by Li Lu; Directors of Photography: Halyna Hutchins, ASC (Episode 1), Jason Gamble Harter (Episodes 2 & 3); Story Consultant: Rita Baghdadi; Original Music by: Jimmy LaValle

Editors: Mike Saenz, Marie Richardson, Yasu Inoue and Story Editor: Fahd Ahmed Associate Editor: Marnie SalvaniProduced by Anthony Pedone, Li Lu; Co-Producer: Julian Higgins, Louise Henderson, Samir Ciali, Zohaib Qadri; Associate Producers: Joshua Oman, Adrienne Childress

Executive in Charge for PBS: Margaret Ebrahim

Source: PBS/Reel South/Independent Lens

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