Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
The Burial – Prime Video
Based upon a true story, “The Burial” is a great David and Goliath type story of a small family funeral business that took on foreign corporate greed. In 1995, Jeremiah O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones) was 75-years-old and the proud patriarch of a family with 13 children and 24 grandchildren in Biloxi, Mississippi. He was a funeral director and owner of a 100-year-old family funeral home business that had grown into eight locations and provided funeral insurance across the state.
Jeremiah had experienced some trouble maintaining the minimum financial requirements to own funeral homes and the state insurance commission temporarily suspended his license. Jeremiah sought the counsel of his personal lawyer and friend for over 30 years Mike Allred (Alan Ruck) who suggested that he sell three of the eight funeral homes he owned to fix his financial woes. He recommended selling to a company in Canada called the Loewen Group owned by Ray Loewen, who was purchasing independently owned funeral homes all throughout the US and Canada.
They scheduled a meeting with Loewen in Canada, and when Jeremiah met Mike at the airport, Mike learned Jeremiah had invited a young black attorney who was a friend of his son’s from college named Hal Dockins (Mamoukou Athie) to join the team and attend the meeting they had scheduled with Loewen. Mike was noticeably uncomfortable due to some very obvious racist views, but Jeremiah just went about heading to Vancouver to meet Loewen on his yacht.
The Loewen Group owned over 1,000 funeral homes, nearly 500 cemeteries, several hundred insurance companies and were gearing up for what they smugly referred to as the “Golden Era of Death”, when the Baby Boomer generation would begin to reach their “age of demise”. Loewen calculated this shift would result in a minimum increase of 60% in deaths nationwide and wanted to capitalize on this profit potential by buying all the funeral homes he could find.
Jeremiah struck a deal with Loewen to have them purchase three funeral homes and Loewen agreed he would not sell insurance in Mississippi as not to compete with Jeremiah’s business. Four months went by, yet Loewen hadn’t closed the deal and it seemed as though Loewen was trying to stall Jeremiah until he ran out of options that would eventually result in him losing his family business, which then Loewen could obtain for practically nothing.
They filed a lawsuit in a neighboring county that was 70% black, which would mean the jury would be composed primary of black citizens. Hal knew that Mike would not do well as lead counsel with a black jury, and suggested they consider another lawyer for the team. Hal had come to know about a charismatic personal injury lawyer named Willie Gary (Jamie Fox) in the black community, who had not lost a case in twelve years and suggested they seek his assistance with the case.
Willie originally refused, stating that he was a personal injury lawyer and that this was a contract law case, but was impressed with Jeremiah’s background and integrity so agreed to work the case. The team thought they had an advantage now with a black attorney as lead, only to find out that Loewen hired a hot shot female black attorney named Mame Downes (Jurnee Smollett) along with a team of black attorneys to support her.
Though Willie and the team had limited expertise in contract law, they were determined to be triumphant in their quest to expose the Loewen Group for racial injustice and corporate corruption.
Runtime: 2h 6m