Although the Civil War ended 145 years ago, the spirit of rebellion lives on in the South, even in something as innocent as a summer camp. SOUTHERN BELLE takes an insider's look at the 1861 Athenaeum Girls' School in Columbia, Tenn., where the antebellum South attempts to rise again. Every summer, young women ages 14 to 18 eagerly sign up to transform themselves into the iconic and romantic image of Southern identity, the Southern belle, receiving instruction in etiquette, penmanship, art, music, dance and social graces. For the first time, cameras closely shadow the students and teachers during this intensive week of historical reenactment, which culminates in a ball attended by the Jackson Cadets, the male equivalent of the 1861 Athenaeum Girls. Is the camp a self-esteem-building, living-history experience or does it ultimately reinforce present-day divisions of race, gender and geography? SOUTHERN BELLE explores these complicated questions and helps to illuminate the issues that continue to define and divide the United States today.
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