Social Justice Film Series: NSC monthly film showing sheds light on difficult issues and identities

By Sierra Lomprey

“Is the solution in the movie the only solution to the problem?” begins discussion in the NSE auditorium following the debut film screening, Waiting for “Superman,” (Davis Guggenheim, 2010) and the conversation takes off.
On the first Wednesday night of each month in the NSE Auditorium from 5:00-7:00pm, students, staff, faculty and community members alike gather to view a documentary about a current social issue affecting our nation and local community, ranging from immigration to hunger, which is then followed up by discussion.
Dr. Shantall Marshall, a key organizer of the free monthly screenings stated, “I thought it would be a good way for students to learn about issues that they are clearly being affected by, even if they are not aware of it and to become involved … If they see something that resonates with them and they would like to do more, or learn more then this could be the starting off point.”
Dr. Leila Pazargadi feels “The Social Justice film series reinforces the campus’ mission of fostering a more inclusive environment for diverse students, staff, and faculty.”
The first film, Waiting For “Superman,” aired on September 9th and discussed issues with the U.S.’s educational system.  Dr. Jasmine Phillips responded to the film: “I think the students need to know about the issues because these stories aren’t going to be told any other way. And for the people who are the focus of the documentary, they don’t have the option to go to a shiny new school in the suburbs. This is their reality. For example, when I entered ninth grade, we were told to stand in a line and look to the left and look to the right and one of those people won’t be there when you graduate. That’s an awful thing to say to a kid starting high school.”
The second film, presented on October 7th, Documented, (Jose Antonio Vargas, 2013) talks about challenges surrounding immigration. The third film, The Central Park Five, (Ken Burns, David Mcmahon, Sarah Burns, 2012), addresses the legal system. It was shown on November 4th, and the discussion panel was led by Dr. Laura Naumann. A Place at the Table (Lori Silverbush, Kristi Jacobson, 2012) is the final film scheduled in the screening, focusing on hunger in relation to poverty, and is set to screen on December 2nd.
The films were selected after discussion with several professors who frequently watch documentaries made suggestions. The movies included in the screening list were also conversation starters when they first aired, and Dr. Marshall hopes to have similarly analytical conversations of the screenings with those who attend.
Dr. Marshall said, “If I can get the students to come out if thinking, yes this is a big problem, yes it is currently maybe not being solved optimally, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about it and have difficult conversations and try and come up with solutions and so I think the feeling I got from the students [after the Waiting for “Superman” screening] was like this is a problem worth solving.”
Dr. Phillips had similar feelings, “Hopefully our students feel empowered to make a difference, that they as individuals can make changes instead of feeling like the status quo has to remain the same.”
NSC students are also welcome to bring their friends and family as the event is extended to the local Southern Nevada community who might be interested in engaging in discussion. Dr. Marshall also reminds students that there is free food in accompaniment with the screenings.
Dr. Pazargadi adds that, “during an election year, this series is even more critical for creating an informed electorate, who will not only be more socially conscious, but hopefully, more motivated to voice and vote their informed opinions.”
The monthly screenings are hosted by the NSC Provost Speaker Series, the Office of Community Engagement & Diversity Initiatives and the Mary Dean Martin Library as part of their initiative to engage the community in critical discussion about major issues, which thus far, seems to be working.
A Place at the Table is scheduled to play Wednesday, December 2 in the NSE auditorium. Dr. Laura Naumann will lead the discussion panel and all students are encouraged to attend.