Film edition 2021

ON THESE GROUNDS

Category: Gex Doc

An explosive video goes viral, showing a white school resource officer in South Carolina pull a Black teenager from her school desk and throw her across the floor. An outraged nation divides over who is at fault and what role race played in the incident. Healer-Activist Vivian Anderson uproots her life in NYC and moves to South Carolina to help the girl and dismantle the system behind the “Assault at Spring Valley”. To contextualize this incident, geographer Janae Davis treks the surrounding swamps to unearth the overgrown and neglected homes of formerly enslaved people of African descent, drawing a throughline connecting trauma from the past to present. Against the backdrop of a racial reckoning and its deep historical roots, one incident illuminates a persistent American power structure.

Original Title On These Grounds
Category Official Competition
Section GEx Doc
Tipology Documentary, Feature Film
Duration 101'
Production Year 2021
Nationality USA
Directed by Garrett Zevgetis
Editor Jeff Consiglio, Chrystie Martinez Gouz
Music Chanda Dancy
Main cast Vivian Anderson
Janae Davis
Robin DiAngelo
Produced by Ariana Garfinkel, Jeff Consiglio, Chico Colvard
Production Disturbing Films (USA)

ON THESE GROUNDS Director Garrett ZevgetisGarrett Zevgetis

Garrett is a Boston-based filmmaker whose first feature documentary BEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS had a World Premiere at SXSW in 2016, and screened at Hot Docs, Mill Valley Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival, Independent Film Festival Boston, Margaret Mead Film Festival and more, receiving five festival awards. The film was released theatrically by First Run Features (NYT Critics’ Pick), and broadcast by PBS’ Independent Lens and Netflix. Garrett grew up in Kissimmee, Florida, served in the U.S. Navy during Desert Storm, and earned an MFA in Media Art from Emerson College. Garrett has worked at PBS’ FRONTLINE and as a producer for the nationally syndicated public radio program, “Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon.” He was named one of 10 Filmmakers To Watch by The Independent Magazine.

Director’s statement
“This has been a passion project for four years. We started with the question: What could we learn by thoroughly investigating one viral video? The Spring Valley incident touched a nerve throughout the world. Schools are a microcosm for society, and we can see similar conflicts playing out with questions of civil liberties vs. safety, punishment vs. restorative practices, “law & order” vs. protest in the name of justice. From a journalistic standpoint, we report on both sides of the issues, gathering multiple perspectives, but we contend without equivocation that Shakara (“the girl in the desk”) did not deserve what happened to her. Today, police officers patrol the hallways of half of American schools. Many are stationed there in the name of school safety without considering the social, practical, and psychological factors associated with their presence. The exponential increase in policing our schools has come with very little vetting or oversight, and students of color are disproportionately targeted. The year of this incident, 300,000 students were arrested or referred to law enforcement in school, and when a child is arrested they are twice as likely to drop out of school. This documentary has a white male director working with a diverse creative team. We are aware that films about race too often focus on racism as a “Black problem” left for Black people to resolve, perhaps with the assistance of the “white savior.” A fundamental principle of our filmmaking has been to address systemic racism as a problem created and fostered by white people. We aim to interrogate whiteness by flushing out the justifications for the assault at Spring Valley High School.”

Production
festival contact
Disturbing Films (USA)
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