AFI Movie Club: SOUNDER – American Film Institute
Sounder Film Still - Cicely Tyson, Eric Hooks, Kevin Hooks, Yvonne Jarrell, and Paul Winfield



SOUNDER ranks #61 on AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 CHEERS list of inspirational films. Star Cicely Tyson graduated from AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women in 1977 – and received an Honorary Degree from the AFI Conservatory in 2014.

Watch Don Cheadle announce SOUNDER:


Movie Trivia about SOUNDER

-DID YOU KNOW SOUNDER was nominated for four Academy Awards® – Best Picture, Best Actor (Paul Winfield), Best Actress (Cicely Tyson) and Best Adapted Screenplay?

-DID YOU KNOW that SOUNDER was based on a 1969 novella of the same name by William H. Armstrong, which won the Newbery Award in 1970? 

-DID YOU KNOW that William H. Armstrong was inspired to write “Sounder” by Homer’s “The Odyssey”? In the epic poem, Argus, Odysseus’s faithful dog, recognizes his master when he returns home after being away for 20 years. 

-DID YOU KNOW that filmmakers originally intended to shoot in Macon, GA – but racial tensions caused them to move the production to Louisiana? 

-DID YOU KNOW that director Martin Ritt took an 80 percent pay cut to direct the film? 

-DID YOU KNOW that SOUNDER marked the first collaboration between film producer Robert B. Radnitz and toy company Mattel? After SOUNDER, they would go on to make six other feature films and one television movie together – with emphasis on films produced for children and families. 

-DID YOU KNOW that the scene of Rebecca running to meet the returning Nathan was inspired by the finale to the 1925 King Vidor film THE BIG PARADE?  

-DID YOU KNOW that SOUNDER was a major box office success? It was made for less than $1 million and by September 1973, it had made $15 million! 

-DID YOU KNOW that the film’s screenwriter Lonne Elder III was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar® for SOUNDER – making him the first black writer to ever receive this honor? 

-DID YOU KNOW that Coretta Scott King said that the character of David Lee Morgan reminded her of her late husband, Dr. Martin Luther King? 

-DID YOU KNOW that a TV remake of SOUNDER aired on The Wonderful World of Disney and was directed by Kevin Hooks, who played David Lee in the original film? He says that watching cinematographer John A. Alonzo during the original production of SOUNDER inspired him to become a director. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-Does SOUNDER still resonate today with modern audiences? 

-David Lee and his dog Sounder have a close bond. What other films with animals in them are close to your heart? 

-What was the sharecropping in the South like at this time? 

-How does the film depict the ways in which the systemic white power structures hold the Morgan family back? 

-How did the film break the mold in terms of depictions of black life onscreen? 

-The film appears on AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 CHEERS list. Which scenes were the most inspiring to you and why? 

-How does the movie compare to William H. Armstrong’s original book? Is the film faithful to the original story? 

-What other coming of age films strike a chord with you? 

-What does school and learning represent for David and the rest of the Morgan family? 

-How has Cicely Tyson paved a path for other aspiring African American actresses? What about her performance makes her unique? 

-How have we made strides regarding racial justice, and in what way do we still need to make progress in terms of discrimination? 

-How would you rate SOUNDER? 

In this exclusive AFI Archive clip, Cicely Tyson talks about her audition for SOUNDER:


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