2020 Breck Film Fest

Film Forum: Racism Through the Lens: The Value of Media in Addressing Racial Justice

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Panelists examine how film portrays the Black experience, and discuss the pros & cons of different types of films in the fight for racial justice. Moderated by Summit School District Superintendent Dr. Marion Smith Jr.

This special program is presented by Willis & Connelly, P.C., with support from The Summit Foundation, Town of Breckenridge, Colorado Creative Industries, Breckenridge Grand Vacations, Alpine Bank, Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media, Climax Molybdenum, & F-Cubed.

Please note, this live event cannot be viewed on your Smart TV using apps, you must watch from the internet source, and project to your television.


·      Dr. Marion Smith, Jr, Summit School District Superintendent

·      Amber Washington, Film + TV student at University of Colorado Denver; filmmaker “A Time and Place to Twerk”

·      Dr. Creshema Murray, Associate Professor of Communication Studies & Special Assistant to the President, University of Houston Downtown; Inclusion Storyteller; Critical Race Scholar

·      Fernando Villena, Filmmaker and co-director of the soon-to-be-released Netflix film “Giving Voice”

·      Greg Garrett, writer & professor at Baylor University

·      Katie Leonard, Community Organizer in Denver; Special Advisor to the Dean & Activist in Residence at the CU Denver College of Arts & Media, leading Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce

Panelists discussed the following questions:

1.      Data from 2019 says that the average US resident consumed digital and traditional media for about 15 hours each day. There is a school of thought that media reflects the interests of the dominant (white) culture, so how does film help us understand overt and covert racism in the US?

2.      Representation matters immensely. Context matters immensely and films are not made in a bubble. They are made in a social container. What role does film play in fighting for racial justice? Moving beyond film for entertainment value to film for social justice movement education & progress.

3.      A takeaway is interrogating the norm. What strikes a chord is when white filmmakers/white people tell stories, are these stories viewed as a perspective or as a norm? When we start thinking about that, we normalize these stories. I’m reminded of Toni Morrison, who said, “White people get to be white and everyone else has to hyphenate.”

4.      There is a question around the concept of whiteness as property or the permanence of racism. The legacy and history of racism in the United States: What are the pros and cons of audiences seeing more easy-to-digest content vs. the more challenging content in films as it pertains to our history of racism and the realities of whiteness. Are people ready to confront the realities or are we making films that appease certain audiences with a softer approach?

5.      Brene Brown said, “Daring Leaders are never quiet about hard things.” What story do you feel you have the responsibility to tell?

6.      From your perspectives, should we shelve or no longer be engaged in conversations around films or supporting films that perpetuate a lot of those troupes or racist stereotypes or things that tell single stories of blackness, indigenous people or people of color. Do we honor them and say yes, they are vital to the canon, or do we say no, not only do we need to critically examine them, but we need to start shelving them.

7.      Looking to the future, how do we support young black and people of color filmmakers and artists?

8.      What is one question you would want audiences to critically ask themselves while they watch films?

9.      What’s one film on this subject that’s essential viewing that you would recommend for everyone to watch? Why?

Resources List - This list includes all media projects discussed in this forum:


·      A Different World, Episode: “Cat’s in the Cradle” [available on Amazon Prime]

·      Black-ish [available on Hulu]

·      The Cosby Show [available on Sling]

·      Girlfriends [available on Netflix]

·      Lovecraft Country [available on HBO]


·      Get Out

·      13th

·      Birth of a Nation

·      Hoop Dreams

·      Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

·      BlacKkKlansman

·      Moonlight

·      If Beale Street Could Talk

·      I Am Not Your Nego

·      Black Panther

·      Us

·      The Blind Side

·      The Butler

·      The Help

·      Driving Miss Daisy

·      Do The Right Thing

·      Queen & Slim

·      Ashes & Embers

·      Love Jones

·      Gone With the Wind

·      Guava Island

·      Giving Voice, dir. Fernando Villena

Other Resources:

·      Floodlines Podcast; Vann Newkirk II, journalist, The Atlantic

·      White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo

·      Katherine Meeks, Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing

·      Emergent Strategy, Adrienne Maree Brown

·      “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie TED Talk 2009


·      Bryan Stevenson, The Equal Justice Initiative: “There is no path forward without some discomfort.”

·      Audre Lord, “We need to tell stories where difference is not merely tolerated but seen as fount of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic.”

·      Kahlil Gibran, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

·      “Those who tell the stories rule the world.”

Projects By Panelists:

·      Any One of Us, dir. Fernando Villena

·      Every Little Step, dir. Fernando Villena

·      “A Time and Place to Twerk”, Amber Washington

·      Form & Function: When Art and Activism Intersect, Katie Leonard

·      Free Bird, author Greg Garrett [2002 Pulitzer Prize nominee, National Book Award nominee]

·      Cycling, author Greg Garrett [William Faulkner Prize for Fiction finalist

·      More about Greg Garrett

·      Leadership Through the Lens: Interrogating Practice, Presentation and Production, author Dr. Creshema Murray