What started out as an assignment for Dan Albright and Andy Keyes’ Documentary Production Workshop class became a call to action in the fight for a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers.
A Living Wage also became an entry in this year’s “It’s All True” Documentary Showcase, a selection of documentary films made by Emerson students. “It’s All True,” sponsored by the Department of Visual and Media Arts, will take place Wednesday, April 6, 7:00-10:00 pm, in the Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center.
The showcase was created five years ago to “raise the profile” of student documentary filmmaking at Emerson, said showcase coordinator Laurel Greenberg, an independent documentary filmmaker and affiliated faculty in the VMA Department.
“The festival creates incentives for doc filmmakers at Emerson to reach for levels of excellence and provides a public form to showcase their work,” Greenberg said. “In addition, the festival hosts a guest celebrity filmmaker to take part in festival events, attend several classes, interface with students, and screen a film of their own.”
This year’s celebrity guest will be award-winning documentarian Stanley Nelson, who will attend classes on April 6 and 7, and participate in a Q&A following a screening of his 2015 film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, on Thursday, April 7, 7:00 pm, in the Bright Family Screening Room, in conjunction with the Bright Lights Film Series. Earlier that day, at 10:00 am, he will also speak on “Translating Political Movements into Film” in the Beard Room in a lecture sponsored by the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.
Albright ‘16 and Keyes ’17 already have a little experience translating a political movement into film. The pair began filming what became A Living Wage in February 2015, at a rally for Fight for $15, the national movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, Albright said. It was there that they met Tiny Figueroa, a Dunkin’ Donuts barista and one of the subjects of their film. At another rally they met Darius Cephas, a McDonald’s worker involved in the movement.
They began talking to organizers and local politicians, but soon realized the focus of their film needed to be on the workers themselves.
“In making this film, it was interesting kind of balancing filmmaking with activism and organizing, and filmmaking as organizing,” Albright said. “Working with Darius and Tiny, and getting to know them, it was just so obvious that this was just such a huge injustice, and we felt we had to do our part to support them.”
Albright and Keyes screened their film last week with Emerson PRIDE (Progressives and Radicals in Defense of Employees) to support Fight for $15 and Emerson employees’ efforts to unionize.
Also being screening during the festival will be graduate student Hannah Engelson’s Jonah Stands Up, winner of two awards at this year’s Emerson Film Festival, held March 20.
Jonah Stands Up blends traditional documentary filmmaking with stop-motion animation to tell the story of artist, comedian, disability activist, and mayoral candidate Jonah Bascle, whom she met in New Orleans through a film Meetup group. Bascle, who had muscular dystrophy and cardiomyopathy, died in December 2014.
Other student documentaries being screened include:
A Dialogue with Islam, by John General ‘18, which tries to answer the question “Is Islam a violent religion?”
Out of Focus, by Mustapha Kelloud ‘17, about a blind man and his struggles.
A Different New Year, by graduate student Cheng Jin, about two young girls in China’s Sun Village, a voluntary adoption center for children whose parents are in prison.
From the Golden Gate to the Farallons, by Jack Bushell ’18 which follows swimmer Simon Dominguez as he tries to make the 30-mile swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands.