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It's 1959. Matthew Scott is a widowed, alcoholic reporter from New York who seeks personal and professional redemption when he's sent to the Deep South to write about a town that is defying a U.S. Supreme Court decision to integrate blacks into schools. His mere presence is a catalyst that ignites long-buried racial, political, religious, and personal conflicts among the residents, both white and black, ripping the town apart. Those tensions violently explode when Scott is falsely arrested by the bigoted, tyrannical sheriff for the rape and murder of an out-spoken black schoolteacher.