Southern Circuit film series to provide forum for discussion on filmmaking and current events

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Those studying the art of filmmaking as well as those who simply enjoy films will have three opportunities this semester to view screenings of independent films and interact with the award-winning, contemporary artists who produced them. 

Presented by the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University and South Arts, the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers begins the second half of its season at the museum Thursday, Feb. 26, at 5 p.m. The first installment is "The New Black" with Yvonne Welborn. On Thursday, March 12, at 5 p.m. the museum will present "Old South" with Danielle Beverly., and "In an Ideal World" with Noel Schwerin on Thursday, April 23, at 5 p.m.

"Southern Circuit was developed to connect audiences with new, independent films that they normally wouldn't have an opportunity to experience," said Teresa Hollingsworth, senior program director at South Arts. "We send directors into communities for screenings and audience discussions about their work and the filmmaking process. It creates a deeper, richer and more engaging film experience for audiences and for the artists."

Each of the films this semester deals with themes of race and culture and touches on current events. "The New Black" addresses faith, family and the fight for equality; "Old South" examines what happens when a college fraternity and a historically black neighborhood collide while acknowledging their respective legacies; "In an Ideal World" follows two inmates for seven years as they struggle to move beyond the reality of America's prison racial order.

Each filmmaker's resume is dotted with major film festival accolades, filmmaking grants, and many have national cable network credits.

Danielle Beverly, who acted as a one-person documentary crew on the film "Old South," is making her second round on the tour and believes taking her work to universities and southern towns is more important to her than film festivals. "As filmmakers, we do this for the audience. We want to hear an audience laugh or feel them becoming uncomfortable in uncomfortable moments," she said.

"We are grateful when people have questions or comments and when it touches them. But for this film in particular, because it's about race relations, it couldn't be more perfect for the Southern Circuit. Having an audience there to talk to me and ask me questions allows me to pass it to them as a way to use it to create conversations."

Kevin Smith, an associate professor of media studies in Auburn's School of Communication and Journalism said that although he encouraged all his students to attend the screenings, they are of particular interest to those taking "Introduction to Visual Media" since they are asked to begin thinking in terms of cinematography. Smith said his students often are excited to discuss the films and what they heard from the filmmaker in class afterwards.

"Students respect the filmmakers because obviously they are accomplished in their field," he said. "When students can hear that even the most accomplished have to work at their craft, it really makes the students work harder and realize that filmmaking is a process."

Beverly offered the following take-away for those who attend the screenings. "I think the most important thing to have in a student filmmaker or any filmmaker is confidence in your own voice—to make films and work that speak about what means something to you in your heart and in your gut and to stay to true to that feeling," she said.

The screenings are one of the many public programs offered at the museum. Auditorium seating is open on a first-come, first-served basis. Advance reservation is encouraged at Following the screenings, the Museum Café and galleries are open until 8 p.m. with a live jazz performance from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission to the museum is free courtesy of JCSM Business Partners. For more information, visit the museum's website or call (334) 844-1484.

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