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Water Valley Resident Expands Film Career in New Faulkner Movie

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

The Lee House, owned by Water Valley resident Jerri Anne Davis, was used for filming in the new William Faulkner movie, “The Past is Never Dead.” Photo courtesy of Damon Burks.

For the first time in history, the Faulkner family has backed support of a movie that gives intricate detail into the life and stories of William Faulkner – “The Past is Never Dead.”

Directed by Michael Modak-Truran, the movie is currently completing filming in iconic locations in Mississippi: Oxford and Water Valley.

Water Valley resident Damon Burks, and brother to Jerri Anne Davis who owns The Lee House in Water Valley that’s featured in the film, expanded his career in the film industry by starring as Lemuel Oldham, Faulkner’s father-in-law.

As a volunteer coordinator for the Oxford Film Festival, working in the film industry is not new to Burks. He developed his over many years from acting in front of the camera to now producing films such as the upcoming movie “The Unholy Days.”

Although the LOU community knows Faulkner for his famous house in Oxford, Rowan Oak, the director of the upcoming movie could not find a house that reflected Faulkner’s Palisades residence in California. That was until Modak-Truran found The Lee House in Water Valley, according to Burks. While the director scouted the house, Burks introduced himself to Modak-Truran.

“[The director] handpicked me to be the father-in-law,” Burks said.

One of the scenes Burks portrays Oldham in is his daughter’s wedding scene which was filmed on the front steps of the First Presbyterian Church in Water Valley.

Damon Burks portrays Estelle Oldham’s father on the front steps of the Presbyterian Chuch in Water Valley. Photo courtesy of Damon Burks.

Estelle Oldham, who would eventually become Faulkner’s wife, was married prior to her marriage with Faulkner. Due to his struggles as a writer, Lemuel Oldham disapproved of his daughter marrying Faulkner since he would be unable to support his daughter financially, Burks said.

Estelle Oldham would eventually marry Faulkner two months after divorcing her first husband, Cornell Frankin, of 10 years.

“It was basically a reenactment of that first wedding,” Burks said.

Burks said it was special portraying a historical individual that was a part of Faulkner’s immediate family.

The scenes shot at The Lee House will serve as Faulkner’s Palasides residence where he eventually moved his family after marrying Estelle Oldham. Burks said the director decided on the location due to his sister restoring the house to the historical 1920s standards.

Although this is another film to add to his vast resume, Burks said he is already doing what he believes is his long-term goal in the film industry.

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