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Update: ‘Lanier’ feature film aims to shed light on Oscarville. Here’s when it's set to release
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Film production crew members gather Monday, March 20, 2023, at Laurel Park as they prepare to shoot the final scenes of the feature film "Lanier." - photo by Scott Rogers

Update: "Lanier" is set to release Sept. 16, producers announced.

For additional updates, visit

Original story: With a wrap on filming this week, “Lanier” is one step closer to the final cut.

Fusing the genres of history and horror, the independent feature film tells the story of a detective who’s forced to come to terms with “the dark truth hidden at the bottom of Lake Lanier,” according to the producers.

Co-written, directed and produced by William Bush-Anderson and his wife, Cindy Kunz-Anderson, “Lanier” is inspired by the account of Oscarville, a Forsyth County town in which roughly 1,100 Black individuals resided prior to the rape and murder of 18-year-old Mae Crow, a White woman, in 1912. The town was later covered when Lake Lanier was built in the 1950s.

Three Black men were accused and lynched for the crime, which spurred the rise of “night riders,” White mobs that torched Black-owned businesses and churches, fired shots into their homes, killed their livestock and eventually drove them out of the county altogether, according to Patrick Phillips’ account in “Blood at the Root.”

While bits of the plot nod to the paranormal, Oscarville “is the blueprint and the heartbeat of the movie,” Bush-Anderson told The Times.

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William Bush-Anderson is on set Monday, March 20, 2023, at Laurel Park as he prepares to shoot the final scenes of his upcoming film "Lanier," a fusion of history and horror retelling the events of Oscarville. Bush-Anderson is the film’s co-writer, director and producer. - photo by Scott Rogers

Since filming began last February in Hall and Forsyth counties, the project has garnered a fairly even mix of favor and opposition, though the scale seems to tip more toward the former, he said.

Despite the opposing opinions on the project, Bush-Anderson feels he’s doing the right thing. 

“The thing is, what happened in Oscarville in 1912 definitely happened,” he said. “A lot of (the negative feedback) I’ve seen online is Oscarville being fake or we’re telling an untruthful story. It might just be (stemming from) wanting to hide the wrongdoings of what happened in this country because it’s 2023, but I’m not a believer in that. If we stop teaching what has happened, we run the risk of it happening again. That’s a dangerous place to be.”

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Makeup artist Chloe Grass prepares actor John M. Johnson for scenes in the film "Lanier" at Laurel Park Monday, March 20, 2023. The film is a retelling of the events of Oscarville with a fusion of history and horror. - photo by Scott Rogers

“Lanier,” according to Bush-Anderson, is a small stepping stone toward awareness, both of history and of self.

“We should always talk about history … even if it is ugly. It’s not to bring up bad times for fun — I’m not trying to rub anyone’s face in it — it’s just for people to be aware and acknowledge what happened,” he said. “If someone has hate in their heart or they don’t like a person of color, this might be just because of how they were raised. To me, racism is taught. We’re not born and we’re like, ‘I hate Black people,’ or, ‘I hate White people.’ It’s all taught through a past generation’s viewpoint.”

Bush-Anderson added he’s hopeful the storyline will change prejudiced hearts as well as educate others on a piece of Black history that, in his opinion, was avoidable, as are the majority of crimes fueled by racial tensions, he said.

“I feel like all of this is avoidable if someone can get to a person first and sit them down, talk to them and see where’s the problem and also to tell them about passings that have happened, families that have been impacted, friends that have been impacted by these travesties,” he said. “When we fight fire with fire, nobody wins.”

The film’s release is slated for September, just in time for “spooky season.” It will be available to rent or buy on demand first, Bush-Anderson said, then introduced to streaming platforms such as Amazon, Apple TV, Hulu and Tubi.

The movie may also premiere in Atlanta’s Landmark and Art Cinema theaters, which are “more monetary-friendly” models than AMC, which the crew was initially eyeing, Bush-Anderson said.

“It’s been a long journey. We’re just excited for everyone to see it,” co-writer, producer and lead actor Ali Ashtigo said, adding he feels his role is a pivotal point in addressing racial tensions. “It’s a reverse of seeing what Black people went through during (the events in) Oscarville, on me. There’s scenes where I’m crying; it’s a heavy movie.”

“It’s very controversial,” Bush-Anderson said, “but in the end, the movie speaks to the message of (fighting) fire with fire never wins, no matter who’s leading it.”

As for the recent talk of renaming Lake Lanier, Bush-Anderson said the film will retain the name “Lanier” regardless of whatever federal action pushes through.

Filming may be complete, but it’s possible the shores of Lake Lanier haven’t seen the last of the “Lanier” crew. The story of Oscarville has sparked inspiration for potential future projects, according to Bush-Anderson, including the idea of a “Twilight Zone”-esque docuseries on “bizarre” or paranormal encounters with Lake Lanier.

“There are a couple of things on the table after ‘Lanier’ that I want to explore,” Bush-Anderson said. “This story has been so fascinating to me and the team, and that’s why we’ve fought so hard to make this movie come to life, but also to do other things, because so many people have been impacted by it. The story of Oscarville, in my heart, mind and soul, is the first thing that I want to tell about Lanier because it’s something that I connect with as an African-American man.”

For more on “Lanier,” visit and follow “Lanier Movie” on Facebook and Instagram. Trailers can be viewed on YouTube.
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Actor Ali Ashtigo, right, and William Bush-Anderson meet Monday, March 20, 2023, at Laurel Park as they prepare to shoot the final scenes of the upcoming film "Lanier," a fusion of history and horror retelling the events of Oscarville. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Film production crew members gather Monday, March 20, 2023, at Laurel Park as they prepare to shoot the final scenes of the feature film "Lanier." - photo by Scott Rogers