This new video explores the IDEAS fellowship program at Emory, which brings together undergraduate students from across the campus to enrich their liberal arts experiences. In the video, we wanted to capture the energy of the students in the hallway and at lunch, especially while interacting with faculty in informal settings.
Common Good Atlanta, a program that brings college-level liberal arts classroom to prisoners, celebrated its 10th anniversary on Feb. 11, 2018. In this short video, several alumni talked about how much the program means to them. We've also interviewed Georgia state senator Nan Orrock and some of the faculty who have donated their time to the program. It's a fantastic all-out volunteer effort led by Sarah Higinbotham (Georgia Tech) and Bill Taft (Georgia State). You can find more videos about the program here.
Last week I joined Emory Professor John Malko and interpreter Tsondue Samphel for our fifth year of videotaping science lectures that are presented in both English and Tibetan for the benefit of monastics in India. This work of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, supported by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, provides in-depth lectures of biology, physics, neuroscience and the philosophy of science. As the Emory faculty will tell you, the learning has definitely gone both ways.
For more information on the program, see the ETP Homepage.
After warming up with three short-doc screening events at Avondale Towne Cinema, we're holding our first "short" short doc festival on February 5th. Awards go to the top three films and the audience will choose a favorite as well.
Please drop by if you're in the area. Doors open at 6pm. Screening & Awards from 7:00-9:00 pm.
FREE Admission. Cash bar. Great restaurants nearby. (What more could you want?)
Top Three (3) films receive judges’ awards. The audience will choose an Audience Favorite.
In Alphabetical Order:
“Garage,” Steve Summers (A father’s garage, Anywhere, U.S.)
—the mysteries of a father’s garage and workspace, candy corn and all
“Ghosts in the Road,” Jason Hales (Atlanta)
—possible paranormal activity near Arabia Mountain
“House of Saints,” Gerry Melendez (Columbia, S.C.)
—reflections of an excon living out his days at his historic family home in Columbia, SC
“Long Haul Truckers,” Greg Miller (Atlanta)
—hail to those men and women driving the big rigs
“Matthew’s Gift,” Jon Watts (Atlanta)
—a photographer gives a precious gift to a family
“A Name that I Admire,” Sam Smartt (West Virginia)
—a hard-working farmer faces a political dilemma
“What So Proudly We Hailed,” Duane Saunders Jr.
—students from Morgan State University delve into the third verse of the “Star Spangled Banner”
Special thanks to Tony Longval at Avondale Towne Cinema for hosting the festival!
The 2016 presidential election. Black Lives Matter. Removal of Confederate monuments. Dreamers and DACA.
Lillian Smith is still so relevant today.
With searing intelligence and humanity, she addressed the psychological and social issues that lie behind these actions and more. She pushed back. As Diane Roberts writes in her 2016 Oxford American piece about Smith: “Her work showed that there was a way to live in the South and push back against the paradigm, to become part of the resistance, refusing to acquiesce in our unthinking religiosity and conservatism.”
We want to introduce another generation to her story and courage. She influenced countless lives, befriended Civil Rights Movements leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr., and gave a voice to what others were thinking but were too afraid to say in public. She was the first white southern writer to speak about the evils of segregation (in the 1930s), describing the harmful effects on both whites and blacks.
This documentary will explore her legacy and the life journey that led to her awakening, from her childhood experiences in the small north Florida town of Jasper, teaching in China, running a girls' summer camp in the north Georgia mountains, to becoming a bestselling author and activist.
We're fortunate to have the backing of Piedmont College’s Lillian E. Smith Center and the Georgia Humanities for this project -- as well as fiscal sponsorship through the Southern Documentary Fund -- and look forward to partnering with other groups and individuals in the months ahead.
For updates on this project, see links below:
Endnote: Mary Crovatt Hambidge, the subject of my last documentary, and Lillian Smith both lived near Clayton, Ga., in the north Georgia mountains. How this one little mountainous area produced two very independent and outspoken women (no evidence of a friendship there), along with the Foxfire project, is another story.
Chattahoochee Riverkeeper approached us in fall 2016 to produce a series of short videos that would show people who live in the watershed—the river drains an area of 8,770 square miles—talking about the weather-related changes they've seen.
So we identified a few key areas and occupations up and down the river: the headwaters (fishermen, paddlers), Lake Lanier (boaters), Atlanta (gardeners), South Georgia (agriculture), and Apalachicola River or Bay (wildlife).
We appreciate everyone who spent time with us, sharing their observations. Yes, it's important that scientists and public policy people talk to each other about a warming planet, but until everyone starts having these conversations -- and seeing how we're all connected -- it's hard to see anything changing.
You can find the individual videos here: https://chattahoochee.org/see-change/
For the CRK Climate Change Conference (Sept. 27-28) and Patron Dinner, we produced a five-minute video (below) that brings together all the interviews (and nice drone footage by Henry Jacobs) to give people a birds-eye view of the river.
With the collaboration of my younger son Henry Jacobs and my friend (and commercial photographer) Joe Boris, we've started organizing bi-monthly film screenings at a 1920s movie theater in Avondale Estates, Ga. We don't have a mission statement (thank God),* but we are screening short documentaries around different themes (e.g., water, work, politics, adoption), and we're organizing a film festival in February 2018 that will hand out awards and those little laurels you see on award-winning films.
This really feels like a golden age of documentaries in terms of getting the right equipment into the right hands of people who want to tell a good story. So we happy to help get the word out.
*Okay, if we had a mission, it might be to entertain, enlighten and energize our community with soulful films about the South.
Very gratifying to win the Best Documentary Award at the spring 2017 Southern Shorts Award Film Festival in Roswell, Ga. The seasonal festival is on Film Freeway's top 100 list of national/international festivals and the unique thing about this festival is the scoring system... a 100 point system which increases the objectivity tremendously. Three judges per every film AND you get a written critique from each judge. And the award ceremony was a lot of fun for everyone.
My article on the importance of funding for basic science appeared in the spring 2017 issue of Emory Magazine (link here). Maybe every politician who denies substantial AND consistent funding for basic science research should be denied advanced medical treatment that grows out of basic science research. Just an idea.
The exhibition is coming down, but the memories stay fresh. So does the interview.
In their SoHo loft, filmmaker/artist Camille Billops and theater scholar James Hatch talk with Randall Burkett and Pellom McDaniels, curators at Emory University's Rose Library (March 28, 2015). This edited interview was featured in the exhibition "Still Raising Hell: The Art, Activism, and Archives of Camille Billops and James V. Hatch" (fall 2016 - spring 2017) at the Schatten Gallery, Emory Library.
Filming Maggie Koerner in action at Eddie's Attic last month was a great chance to see Maggie do her thing... which I find incredible... and work with my son, Henry Jacobs, who also filmed (using our new Panasonic GH5's) and edited.
It's a simple premise. Talk to people up and down the length of the Chattahoochee River watershed about the changes they're seeing in the environment. Hotter summer? Harder rains? More droughts? Leave politics out of it (for the moment). Just have a conversation about what seems to be changing. Then maybe we can sit down and figure out ways to help the situation.
Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is sponsoring this project and the short documentary that will follow. See more information here.
For over 40 years, Dr. Alan Solomon, researcher and oncologist, has been moving rocks, building stone walls, planting conifers, installing sculptures and water features on his land overlooking the Tennessee River in Knoxville. We spent a weekend with him, walking through his 10+-acre garden, which rivals any botanical garden anywhere, learning more about him and his work. There's something very fitting that a healer like Dr. Solomon should create a garden that has natural healing powers of its own.
We're already looking forward to visits in the spring and autumn to capture more views of the garden.
For the last couple of years, Campbell Gitomer, a recent Emory graduate in film studies, and I have been providing low-cost video services to the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory. JWJI offers a well-attended weekly lecture series and wants to reach a broader online audience but couldn't afford to pay the usual fees ($300-$400) for recording, minimal editing and export to a Youtube-friendly file.
You'll find their YT playlist at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDSBylqXf9oH3hNsd55yDC7Hjtu7Z-LSE
If there are other centers, arts groups or nonprofits out there who would like occasional help with talks, please let us know and we'll try to help out.
A few days ago I uploaded this little interview clip to Facebook... and after two days it had received over 7,000 views and was shared on the official Muddy Waters Facebook page.
Interestingly enough, the first time I heard Jontavious Willis play in spring 2016, he reminded me of Muddy Waters. Not exactly the way he phrased his songs, but the emotion behind the songs. His charisma. Humanity. Soul. He was playing at a little street festival in LaGrange, Ga. My son and his friends were playing in another group right before him. Someone told us we should stick around for the blues player. That he had played a cigar box instrument at a little New Orleans festival a few months earlier. That Taj Mahal had invited onstage in Atlanta a few months before that and was telling everyone he was the real deal (ie, country blues musician).
After Jontavious played, he carried his guitar over to my son's house, a few blocks away, while talking about the history of the blues like a grad student in musicology. Then he jammed on the front porch for the next couple of hours with my son and friends. By the way, he knows a bunch of bawdy blues songs and knows how to make them work.
At some point I told him my Muddy Waters story. It was a Sunday afternoon. April 9, 1978. I was working part-time at the Coop record store in Tallahassee, across the street from Florida State University. Muddy Waters was giving a concert on campus that I planned to go to. But then my coworker said he'd heard from a record distributor that Muddy would try to drop by the store after the show. So I stayed. Missed the show. Watched the door. A hard rain fell. One of those Florida afternoon showers. No Muddy. And that was that. Maybe it's good sometimes not to meet your heroes.
But as I told Jontavious on that spring day about 38 years later, I was feeling Muddy through him. And I thanked him for that.
The Shiloh-Rosenwald School sits at the crossroads of talking about the history of civil rights in the South, and it's hoped that future generations of students and visitors will drop by this living museum.
The school was built in the 1920s, perhaps on the site of the original school building that was one of the first Rosenwald Schools (numbering 5,000) built as a result of a partnership between Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington.
The landowning farmers (former slaves and children of slaves) helped build the school and pay for its operations. Students thrived here under wonderful teachers until they were able to attend integrated schools in the 1960s.
Unfortunately, the school and community also witnessed a tragic event in U.S. history -- the Syphilis Experiment conducted by the government that allowed men and their families in the community to suffer from the disease so that doctors could study its progress.
It wasn't until former Shiloh-Rosenwald student Charlie Pollard (among others) helped to bring the case to light that a U.S. president apologized to the community.
You can find more information about the school at
Update (April 8, 2017): The Shiloh film below was accepted in the Short Documentary category in the 2017 Inspired Faith Film Festival (http://www.inspiredfaithff.com/shorts).
It's not the biggest success story of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (CRK). That would be winning a $2 billion legal victory against the City of Atlanta which convinced politicians it was time to upgrade an antiquated sewer system that made the waters downstream an extension of its sewers. (It worked. Now the river downstream is healthier than ever.) But it might be the #2 or #3: How CRK responded to an ongoing toxic spill by an asphalt company that refused to stop dumping or clean up the damage... how the contamination flowed down a stream into the Chattahoochee River... and how CRK teamed up with local lawyers and media to force a cleanup. It took many many months for the case to be resolved in the courts—but it's all in a day's work for CRK.
In September 2016, CRK showed the film at their annual membership dinner in which Ambassador Andrew Young received the River Leader Award. A few weeks later the film was chosen as a semi-finalist in the Cause + Effect Georgia Progressive Film Festival, with finalists to be named in late October.
In early 2015, my son, Henry, and I spent a memorable afternoon filming in the SoHo loft of James Hatch and Camille Billops with Emory archivists/scholars Pellom McDaniels and Randall Burkett, and the Rose Library director Rosemary Magee. One of the results of that day was a short documentary that gives an overview of Camille and Jim's passions and work -- creating art and documenting African American life and culture -- over the last 50+ years. Besides being online (see below), the documentary is playing at the "Still Raising Hell" exhibition (September 15, 2016 through May 14, 2017) that features some of the materials now residing in Emory's Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.
A little peek at the upcoming performance of "moat" by Staibdance at Emory's Performing Arts Studio. George Staib and his dancers do it again... and again and again. You can find more info at http://www.staibdance.com/calendar/moat
Just a crazy good show... When you see Jontavious play for the first time, you realize why the blues community is so jazzed about him. He's from the country around LaGrange, Ga., learned to play on his own (with the help of YouTube videos), still plays in church every Sunday, and is starting to get gigs in other countries. My son Henry (the drummer) met him last month at a little festival down the street from his house, then invited Jontavious back to the front porch to jam with him and Nick (bass) and Haden (mandolin). A month later they had this gig at Maggie's Pure Life Studios in LaGrange. I hope it's not the last one.