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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, September/October 2005

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

September means renewal--returning from a summer vacation or retreat, launching a new season, going back to school. While this issue is not the blockbuster education issue of previous years, we do look at how an educational context is utilized in innovative ways, whether for documentary purposes or as the subject for documentary exploration.

We all presumably read Shakespeare in either high school or college, but it may have been unusual for many of us to have read the Bard in elementary school. But at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles, teacher Rafe Esquith is instilling in his fifth and sixth grade classes the tools not just to read Shakespeare, but to perform his plays. Mel Stuart's The Hobart Shakespearians, which premieres on PBS' P.O.V. series on September 6, captures the process of this inspiring model for education. An even less likely context in which to study Shakespeare is the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in Kentucky, where filmmakers Hank Rogerson and Jillann Spitzmiller spent a year filming inmates rehearsing for and performing The Tempest. Shakespeare Behind Bars will air on PBS in 2006. Tamara Krinsky sat down with Stuart, Rogerson and Spitzmiller for a conversation about the making of their respective films.

At the University of Texas-Austin's Department of Radio-TV-Film, filmmaker/professor Andy Garrison has created a unique program, East Austin Stories, in which his undergraduate students work with residents of East Austin's Mexican-American and African-American communities to create documentaries that reflect the folklore and culture of that part of the city. Rachel Proctor May talks with Garrison and some of his students about how this program works.

The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar has for over 50 years carried on the tradition that founder Frances Flaherty set out for it: A weeklong emersion into the heart and soul of independent media as a means to explore new ideas and new possibilities for cinema. A convocation of media-makers, scholars, curators and archivists reflecting a range of generations, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and intellectual and artistic experiences, the Flaherty inspires a continual, dawn-to-well-past-dusk conversation.

I had the pleasure of attending the seminar in June, and my senses were stripped and feng-shuied and reworked throughout the week, as I engaged and participated in the discussion of a range of remarkable work that figured in the programmatic theme of "Cinema and History: Piling Wreckage upon Wreckage." Curators Michael Renov and Jesse Lerner, along with Executive Director Margarita De la Vega-Hurtado, share their insights about the Flaherty mystique.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White