Storytelling to Generate Empathy and Dialogue

The College of Communication Arts & Sciences, the School of Journalism, and WKAR hosted two screenings of student-produced short films as part of MSU’s 2021 Juneteenth celebration. The online screenings were accompanied by a filmmaker Q&A and were attended by dozens of students, alumni, faculty, and members of the MSU community.

“Twin Pandemics” was directed by student filmmaker Cierra Chapman, in partnership with a team of student producers and Amol Pavangadkar, filmmaker and Professor of Practice in the MSU School of Journalism. The short film follows three MSU students through the tumultuous year of 2020 as they struggle with the new reality of education during COVID-19 and the tragic murder of George Floyd.

“An American Reckoning?" is a pilot project that explores the deep divide on issues of race in America. The ongoing documentary project is led by Pavangadkar and co-produced with recent MSU alumna Nala Davis. In the extended trailer for the film, black women in the MSU community share their stories of racial trauma. They attempt to heal through these conversations and connections with each other, as they contextualize and share their experiences of racism in America.

“We created these documentaries to initiate and sustain a critical dialogue about racism—and these short films are just the beginning. Through student-faculty creative partnerships like these, we are finding new ways to spark conversation,” said Pavangadkar.

During the screening events, student filmmakers described the challenges of working remotely and in isolation to produce their projects. Twin Pandemics director Cierra Chapman said, “We thought we were communicators before this pandemic, but we really learned how to communicate during this pandemic, and in different ways.”

“American Reckoning” producer (and recent MSU alumna) Nala Davis described the power of storytelling to change the conversation about race: “Pushing yourself to learn more and to understand more and to have more of a dialogue. I think that’s how we move forward in this discussion, and help the next generation. That’s what it’s really all about.”

MSU’s Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jabbar R. Bennett, Ph.D, introduced the screenings.

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