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European Documentaries Paint South As Questionable Games Host

July 17, 1996

PARIS (AP) _ Hooded Klansmen. Charred churches. Wandering homeless. In a preview to the Atlanta Olympics, unflattering documentaries are giving Europeans a dark view of America’s South.

Films broadcast in recent weeks on French and German television take a hard _ some say hostile _ view of the South in general, and Atlanta in particular.

The films focus on the plight of Atlanta’s homeless, nudged aside over the past few years as the city bulldozed vacant homes and warehouses to make way for the Olympic Village and venues.

``In the United States, you have a completely different system of dealing with the homeless. We’re shocked at what’s going on over there,″ Munich-based filmmaker Suzanne Drexl said Tuesday.

``In Germany, we consider the homeless more like human beings. In the United States, they’re more like trash.″

Movies like Drexl’s ``The Atlanta Project″ and ``Le Peche Olympique″ (``Olympic Sin″) reinforce long-held European stereotypes about the South _ namely, that mostly white politicians go out of their way to oppress blacks.

Drexl’s films, hailed by the daily Le Parisien as ``interesting and instructive,″ examine how the homeless were hired to help construct Olympic arenas, and how county officials bought bus tickets to encourage them to leave before the opening ceremonies.

Nobody said it, but the films strongly implied that slave labor was used to get Atlanta ready for the 100th anniversary Olympiad.

Games organizers deflect such criticism, saying the venues were built largely by union labor and under close government scrutiny.

``We are not trying to hide our homeless population from the visitors expected here in the next few days,″ said Jill Strickland, press secretary to Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell.

Drexl’s films aren’t alone. Other movies are examining the church fires across the South, contrasting the blazes with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights crusade.

The movies show black-and-white footage from the 1960s of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan conducting torchlight rallies. The films don’t explain that Atlanta escaped most of the era’s desegregation violence.

``Atlanta, Jeux et Segregation″ (``Atlanta, Games and Segregation″) by French filmmakers Nicole Bacharan, Sophie Baudry-Gendrot and Marie-Helene Fraisse profiles Atls blacks and their ``voice of silence.″

And in ``Le Jeu Avec Les Jeux″ (``The Game With the Games″), the German filmmaking team of Gunther and Ralph Gladitz chronicles life in the black ghettos ringing Atlanta.

In a poignant scene, the camera follows a pillow tumbling slowly down the side of a 10-story building, tossed out a window by a demolition worker clearing out the meager belongings of the homeless.

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