Southern Gothic

For Miami filmmaker Tag Purvis, completing his first full-length movie wasn't just a matter of going home. He also had to stay alive.

Purvis doesn't expect Red Dirt will be a huge commercial success, but he hopes he can at least get it into theaters. "Ideally I'd like to be able to make the money back and carve out a place where I can make the next film, and just go on from there," he says. "For the past four years I've been living on thin ice. Now I either fall through or it gets more solid."

One of Purvis's concerns is the reaction to the movie in Meridian. He plans to screen it at the Temple movie house, a Moorish-style former vaudeville theater downtown. But he realizes Red Dirt is not likely to be the movie the citizens of Meridian are expecting. "That it's a small-town portrayal of a place the characters want to get out of won't bother them," he says. "What will bother them, if anything, is the relationship between the two guys. The kissing scene worries me a little because I am going to show it in Meridian, and the community there helped me so much."

For Purvis the film is ultimately a story about tolerance, and he hopes it will be seen that way. His father elaborates: "It's about the life of a boy in Mississippi who happens to be gay," Guy Purvis says. "I think most people here are open-minded. If they don't like it, they can go to -- they can go to New York."

Whatever the outcome Tag Purvis plans to make his second movie in Meridian as well. And more. Although he has no plans to abandon Miami, Meridian will always be home. "I sort of have a longing," he muses during the long drive back to South Florida. "I always have a dream that someday I'll return. I'm not sure if it's wanting to fit and the inability to do so that causes it.

"But there's more to it than that," he adds. "It's sort of a dream place for me. And I don't know if it exists anymore. Or if it's something that ever existed." Purvis turns up the volume on a Willie Nelson tune and hits cruise control. "Maybe it's just a place I've created in my head over the years.

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