A town on the banks of Lake Okeechobe possesses a legacy of resilience in “Outta The Muck” on INDEPENDENT LENS – Feb. 6 at 10 pm

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FEBRUARY 6, 2023 at 10 PM


Filmmaker Ira Mckinley Journeys Home to Explore Shared Family History Spanning Seven Generations, Telling Stories of Black Achievement and Community in the Deep South

Filmmaker Ira Mckinley turns the camera lens on his hometown of Pahokee, a small rural city of about 6,000 people located in the Everglades region of Florida, perhaps best known for its achievements in high school football. With co-director Bhawin Suchak, Mckinley captures his journey home to reconnect with his niece and nephew, and explores their shared family history spanning seven generations.

Cheerleader at Kids Football Game
Cheerleader at Kids Football Game (Credit: Maya Suchak)

“Outta the Muck” makes its broadcast debut on INDEPENDENT LENS, February 6, 2023, at 10:00 p.m. ET, and also will be available to stream on the PBS Video app.

Pahokee sits on the ancestral lands of the Seminole and Miccosukee people, on the shores of Lake Okeechobee. Taking its name from the Seminole word for the Everglades region Pa-Hay-Okee, meaning “grassy waters,” Pahokee is located in an area of Lake Okeechobee known as “the Muck,” named so for the nutrient-rich, dark soil unique to the region. The historic town comprises a tightly-knit community of families, friends, and neighbors and is known for its rich football legacy: Pahokee High School boasts one of the top high school football programs in the country and regularly sends its seniors to colleges on football scholarships.

As Mckinley returns to Pahokee, he reconnects with his niece Bridget Dean and his nephew Alvin Dean (Bridget’s brother), tracing their everyday lives in Pahokee and the larger family history that they share going back through the generations. United by the pride in their community and in being “from the muck,” the Dean family remains fiercely self-determined, resisting despair with love, and forging their own unique narrative of Black achievement and resilience in the face of tragic storms and personal trauma.

parents sitting in stands at high school football game
Alvin and Elea at Game (Credit: Maya Suchak)

A focal point of the film is the lead-up to the Muck Bowl, the annual game between the Pahokee Blue Devils and the Belle Glade Raiders, their rivals from their neighboring city on the lake—a high school rivalry considered one of the fiercest in the country. Through the town’s beloved sport, the film chronicles intimate stories of Pahokee residents—players, parents, coaches, cheerleaders—and illustrates the tight bonds of community as they support and rely on each other through hardship, and celebrate their shared triumphs.

“‘Outta the Muck’ is a very personal telling of my family’s story, but also of the broader community of Pahokee as a whole. Our aim was to capture a sliver of Pahokee’s history and preserve it, for present and future generations, in a way that celebrates our community and reminds us of our own shared resilience,” said co-director Ira Mckinley. “For the audiences who find and watch the film on INDEPENDENT LENS, we hope that they are able to see some of their own family struggles and triumphs reflected in the stories of the Dean family, and be inspired by their shared pursuit of love and community above all.”

Man with posing with his three elementary aged children
Willie Dean and his Family (Credit: Maya Suchak)

“Outta the Muck” received co-production support from ITVS through its Open Call funding initiative, which supports projects through completion for broadcast on public television, as well as from its Diversity Development Fund, which was created to support exceptional stories by filmmakers from diverse backgrounds.

Visit the “Outta the Muck” page on INDEPENDENT LENS for more information about the film.

About the Filmmakers

Ira Mckinley, Co-Director/Producer

Ira Mckinley is a filmmaker and activist and the director/producer of the award-winning documentary “The Throwaways.” “Outta The Muck” tells the story of his family roots in Pahokee, Florida, and is being produced with support from ITVS, Black Public Media, JustFilms, Sundance, and the Southern Documentary Fund.

Bhawin Suchak, Co-Director/Producer

Bhawin Suchak is an educator, filmmaker, mentor, and founding member/co- executive director of Youth FX and NeXt Doc. He is the co-director, producer, cinematographer, and editor of “Outta The Muck,” a feature-length documentary supported by ITVS, JustFilms, Sundance, and Southern Documentary Fund.