An intimate portrait of a once-prosperous town in a forgotten corner of America.
by Emily Buder, Ivete Lucas, Patrick Bresnan via The Atlantic on March 13, 2018
In the late 1800s, traveling preacher Robert Sheffey cursed the town of Ivanhoe, Virginia, after witnessing what one female resident describes as “houses of ill repute, fighting, drunkenness, and a rejection of his ministry by the townspeople.” Legend has it that Sheffey condemned the sinful town to sink into the earth and be consumed by the pits of hell.
“Whether you believe in it or not, after that happened, we lost everything,” says the same Ivanhoe resident in the short documentary The Curse and the Jubilee. “We lost the rock quarry; we lost the railroads; we lost the mines; we lost our stores. We have nothing.” Today, Ivanhoe is even plagued by sinkholes—multiple houses have disappeared entirely into the earth.
Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan’s arresting film is an intimate portrait of a once-prosperous town in a forgotten corner of America. Like many former mining communities, Ivanhoe has been decimated by industrial abandonment. Taking an observational approach, The Curse and the Jubilee introduces the town’s remaining residents, who pride themselves on their strong constitutions despite the fact that most live well below the poverty line. “A weak person would never survive living around here,” says a local mother. “There are no slackers in Ivanhoe. We have a strong backbone because we’ve been put down so much….We are not trash.”