The cotton-growing industry has long had a tight hold on the political and economic lives of many people in the Mississippi Delta, and this documentary -- directed in part by Albert Maysles -- explores the toll King Cotton has taken on one woman and her family. Laura Lee Wallace, known to friends and family as LaLee, has spent all her life in Mississippi's Tallahatchie County. The product of a long line of cotton farmers, LaLee has grown up in dire poverty, and her children and grandchildren are poor prospects for a better life, given the region's failing school systems. At the urging of the major cotton firms, Tallahatchie County's schools used to routinely shut down during the harvest season so children could join their parents in the fields, and conditions have gotten only marginally better, with the county's ill-funded school system facing a possible takeover by the state government unless scores improve on the next round of standardized aptitude tests. With both money and job opportunities scarce, LaLee faces an uphill struggle to support her extended family, which now includes several grandchildren left to her care by sons and daughters unable to care for their offspring themselves. LeLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton was produced for the premium cable television network HBO; prior to it's HBO debut, the film was presented at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.
~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide