(April 13, 2019) – MADISON, MS. – A film produced by the students of the Find Your Voice Young Filmmakers’ Workshop premiered at the 20th Annual Crossroads Film Festival in Madison on Saturday, April 13. The festival, one of longest running in Mississippi, was held from April 11 to April 14 and featured 102 films from across the nation. The student’s short film titled, Find Your Voice, highlighting civil rights activism in the Mississippi Delta was shown at the Malco Grandview Cinema, and was followed by a Q&A session between the young filmmakers and the audience.
“Crossroads Film Festival is celebrating 20 years of bringing Mississippi-made films to the big screen,” says Philip Scarborough, a founding member of Crossroads Film Society and current Society Board President. “This year we’ve taken special care to select films made in Mississippi or by Mississippi filmmakers, and films by youth, LGBTQ, female, and filmmakers of color.”
The Young Filmmakers’ Workshop is part of the Find Your Voice K-12 Curriculum for the upcoming documentary, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America. The intensive five-week workshop was held in the summer of 2018 and allowed 17 high school students from the Mississippi Delta to learn the aesthetics of digital studies and filmmaking, including the use of professional-grade equipment, primary source research and creating their own oral histories while examining the life and legacy of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer. A native of Ruleville in Sunflower County, Hamer did most of her humanitarian work in the Delta and constantly sought better educational opportunities for students. The Young Filmmakers’ Workshop, now an annual program known as the Sunflower County Film Academy, is a tribute to her pedagogical mission.
The instructors for the workshop were three members of the Fannie Lou Hamer’s America film team, director and editor, Joy Davenport and videographers Dr. Pablo Correa and Robert Fitzpatrick Jr. The workshop was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
From Left to Right: Keziah Allen, Keyshawn Brison, Keyshaun Meeks, Pablo Correa, and R.J. Fitzpatrick pose for a picture during the Crossroads Film Festival in Madison, Mississippi on Saturday, April 13 2019.
Correa and Fitzpatrick attended the Crossroads Film Festival with three students from the workshop: Keziah Allen, Keyshawn Brison and Keyshaun Meeks.
“It was amazing,” Fitzpatrick said of the experience. “Not only seeing their work but seeing their faces as they watched. The glow in their eyes and smiles on their faces were so genuine. They were so happy and into all of the films. And there were tons of people that wanted to talk to them.”
Students of the Find Your Voice filmmakers' academy smile excitedly as they see their project on the big screen during the Crossroads Film Festival in Madison, Mississippi on Saturday, April 13, 2019.
In true Hollywood fashion, Allen, Brison and Meeks were interviewed and photographed on the red carpet prior to the screening of their film.
“It felt awesome!” Meeks said. “It felt empowering in a way and I was honored to be a part of something that really has changed my life and my outlook of the world. Literally, I had goosebumps running all over my body. And when our film was coming to an end, I wanted to cry because it was that much of an achievement. I really want to do it all over again.”
Organizers said the Crossroads Film Society prides itself on facilitating and promoting a broad spectrum of film-related events for the community while promoting dialogue and educational opportunities for filmmakers and audiences. The question and answer session that followed the screening of Find Your Voice allowed Brison, Allen and Meeks to talk about their workshop experiences.
Find Your Voice students Keziah Allen, Keyshawn Brison, and Keyshaun Meeks answer audience questions after the screening of their film project during the Crossroads Film Festival in Madison, Mississippi, on April 13, 2019.
“I felt confident, but still a little nervous,” Meeks said. “I couldn’t stop smiling because I was thinking how cool it was to be in front of an audience presenting our work to actual people. I wanted to say so much more with the Q&A part, but I was nervous.”
“The crowd understood that this was their first time in this situation, so they clapped and were supportive of anything they said,” Correa said. “Keyshaun Meeks mentioned wanting to pursue digital media as a major and the crowd clapped. Keyshawn Brison also mentioned wanting to use his skills more, which drew a good response from the crowd.”
“One lady didn’t have a question but wanted to tell us how happy she was this was happening and how fortunate the kids were to have the opportunity,” Fitzpatrick said. “During the playing of the film, everyone stayed quiet, but me being curious, I turned around a few times and everyone seemed into it. When Seymour Mitchell, an older gentleman, [in the film] was speaking about his whistling, that seemed to get the most draw-dropping responses.”
As instructors, Correa and Fitzpatrick were asked by the audience to explain the logistics of the workshop and if it would continue.
“RJ and Pablo both answered that question, ‘Yes!’”, Meeks said. “The experience can change lives.”
The 17 students in the workshop made their first film, Out Of Many, after one week in class. Meeks, Allen and Brison were also among the eight students who worked as paid and credited videographers on the film, I Snuck Off The Slave Ship, during the workshop. The film was edited by the third workshop instructor, Joy Davenport, and was an official selection at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
“I feel the Young Filmmakers’ Workshop is most definitely important, now more than ever,” Fitzpatrick said. “I loved the workshop and the purpose of it. To get the kids involved with the media of today prepares them for the tomorrow of technology. Society will only advance and through workshops similar to this one, it helps them. Not to mention that it teaches, not just history, but the history of our people…our people as in our neighbors. We spoke with children from the area who didn’t even know who Fannie Lou Hamer was.”
“The workshop has literally turned my whole life around,” Meeks said. “Here’s how, I’m a graduating senior and I was struggling to find out what I wanted to do after high school. I’m going to Delta State to major in Digital and Media Arts. This program literally has drove me to choose that major and I know that this is going to be something that I will love and enjoy doing!”
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About The Young Filmmakers’ Workshop Instructors: Robert Fitzpatrick Jr is a videographer and photographer from Ruleville, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Delta State University. He specializes in Digital Media Art and works with communities in the Delta by fostering the knowledge of and impact of local activists such as Fannie Lou Hamer.
Pablo Correa received his doctorate in Communication at Florida State University and has a Master’s in Communication with an emphasis on Digital Media. A civil rights historian, he specializes in documentary film, graphics and short animation. His research focuses on the interests of minorities, especially Blacks and Hispanics, in America. His work highlights racial relations, stories of tension, as well as stories of perseverance and success. Correa taught Media Techniques and Single Cam Video Production at Florida State University. He is also the webmaster for Fannie Lou Hamer’s America.
Joy Elaine Davenport, a videographer and video editor from Tallahassee, also taught Media Techniques and Single Cam Video Production at Florida State University. Davenport has produced films on topics as varied as the civil rights struggle in Mississippi, migratory shorebirds of Florida, to the Cold war anxieties of Gilligan’s Island. A civil rights historian, her historical film, M.F.D.P., detailing Fannie Lou Hamer’s formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, was an official selection at the Bridge Crossing Jubilee Festival in Selma, Alabama. Davenport has also produced environmental pieces for PBS and National Geographic.
Fannie Lou Hamer’s America is a multimodal project, based on the civil rights activist’s life, that includes a new and original documentary, an educational curriculum, an interactive website and clearinghouse for Hamer-related materials and a virtual tour. The project’s mission is to create a platform for Hamer’s voice in our modern time while addressing and promoting conversations about racial equity. The documentary is slated for completion and release in 2019. Funding was provided by: The Mississippi Humanities Council, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Women’s Foundation of Mississippi, Retzer Resources (McDonald’s) and the Ella Baker Center For Human Rights. For more information log onto www.fannielouhamerdocumentary.com, Facebook: Fannie Lou Hamer’s America and Twitter: @flhamerica.
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