January 25, 2008

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

'Causes' Film Festival Brings Awareness to Valdosta

VALDOSTA - About 25 VSU students, employees and members of the Valdosta community will showcase their 90-second documentaries - which explore such themes as social injustice, gender equality and environmentalism - at the “Causes” Film Festival Saturday, Jan. 26 from 7-9 p.m., in the first floor auditorium of the Hugh C. Bailey Science Center.

The Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice is sponsoring the event, which is designed to highlight issues of concern in the area and to excite the community about affecting positive changes in the region. Dr. Matthew Richards, associate professor of Cultural Anthropology, said he hopes to establish the film festival as an annual forum for students and the community to address injustice and impact the society in which they live.

“We were so excited to have so many submissions our first year, especially from students and others both off and on campus who have never produced anything, yet were compelled by their cause to do so,” Richards said. “It will be about an hour and a half of ruckus fun. We want people to clap and hoot and hollar and boo.”

Richards said the free event is open to the public and that the morally instructional films are kid friendly. Festival organizers want to educate younger generations about important social, racial and environmental causes, Richards said.

“There is one film, which we have reserved to show at the very end, that parents may not want their kids to see,” Richards said. “We will remind the audience before showing that last film that they should take their kids outside. The rest of the films are in no way innappropriate for a younger audience.”

Film festival organizers relied on online social networking site, Facebook, to spread the message about the event. Richards created a “Causes” Facebook event page to provide details about the event and potentially gather global interest. He also initiated a “Causes” Facebook group, which will remain active after the event. He hopes the “Causes” group will serve as a forum for discussion about the film showing and ongoing discourse about causes for change in the Valdosta community.

The films are posted on YouTube, a video sharing Web site where users can upload, view and share video clips. Film organizers uploaded the films onto the Internet to reach a broad audience and ensure people can watch the films anywhere at anytime. Richards said he plans to project the films directly from YouTube onto the auditorium’s projection screen during the public showing Saturday, but he has a back-up disk of the films if the Internet connection has any hiccups.

Directors of the two most poignant films will each receive a check for $100 as recognition for their passionate efforts.

“The prize money is just a little thank you for taking time to convey a message through this media,” Richards said. “We hope the prize money and recognition of the event will grow after people realize the impact this small group of folks has on the way the community thinks and acts.”

Richards said he hopes other departments, particularly those involved with media and communications, will see future film festivals as a way to challenge their students to think about the local realities of global causes and ways to communicate the need for change.

“We didn’t know what to expect; but when submissions came in, we were so amazed at the various conveyances people used to put together their statements,” Richards said. “We had an art student draw cartoons and make a slideshow out of those images, for instance.”

Organizers are being purposefully tight-lipped about the various issues addressed and styles used in the films. Richards said he wants the audience to be overcome by the experience at the “opening night” and not come into the showing with expectations or pre-concieved notions about what they are going to hear or see.

For more information about the festival, call Richards at (229) 333-5485 or e-mail him at mjrichar@valdosta.edu.

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