ECU documentary accepted to film festival
From left, ECU grad James Gould worked with Erick Green and Bernard Timberg on the film, "Bunny Saunders: The Mayor Who Stood Up
(Mar. 25, 2009)
A film by two East Carolina University faculty members has been accepted into the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, a premier international film event that will be held April 2 to 5 in Durham.
“Bunny Saunders: The Mayor Who Stood Up,” a 10-minute documentary produced by Erick Yates Green and Bernard Timberg, colleagues in ECU’s School of Communication, shows a rural North Carolina mayor’s fight against the Navy’s proposed Outlying Landing Field.
The idea for the film came from a public hearing about the controversial proposal to install a concrete landing strip for military planes, filmmakers said. At the hearing, filmmakers discovered an “amazing personality” in an outspoken resident who opposed the project, Estelle “Bunny” Saunders, mayor of Roper.
Saunders, they learned, had a rich history in public service. Her father had served as mayor; her grandfather worked with the NAACP. Her mission to work with others to unite Eastern North Carolina communities in the grassroots fight against the OLF proposal, which was eventually abandoned in the wake of widespread opposition.
“We knew that we had a strong character and a topic affecting a rural community,” said Green, an assistant professor at ECU who directed and co-produced the films with Timberg. “Mayor Bunny Sanders is an amazing force-of-nature, a can- and will-do leader who is deeply committed to the betterment of our often overlooked yet vital co-citizens and communities here in Eastern North Carolina.”
The filmmakers received a $6,957 ECU College of Fine Arts and Communication Research and Creative Activity grant to complete the film. Editors Hsiao Chu, an assistant professor in the School of Communication, and James Gould, ECU graduate, assisted with the project.
The film is the second documentary by Green and Timberg to focus on the struggles of rural North Carolina communities. Their first collaboration, “The New Country Doctor,” sheds light on the health disparities that exist in rural counties.
“In just getting off this campus, a whole world opens up,” said Timberg, an associate professor at ECU. “We use the term ‘under-the-radar.’ These stories are unknown, and they’re wonderful, rich human stories.”
Both films were screened at the University Film and Video Association in Colorado Springs, as well as at selective screenings at the Broadcast Education Association Conference in Las Vegas and The International Reminiscence and Life Review Conference in San Francisco.
Green and Timberg plan to show the documentaries to the communities and individuals involved, as well as government officials, policymakers and general audiences. The hope, said Green, is to “open a window” into these small communities and their struggles through media.
Green and Timberg will join a panel discussion at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. “Bunny Saunders: The Mayor Who Stood Up” will be shown at the festival April 5. The film will be screened at ECU’s College of Fine Arts and Communication convocation April 28.
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