Department of Communication Studies

The Clohesy Documentary Film Series

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Dawn Porter, October 5-6, 2015

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter will visit the University of Northern Iowa October 5 and 6 to screen two of her works.

dawn porter photoPorter will screen and discuss the following films, all in Lang Hall Auditorium:

  • Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, 7 p.m., Gideon's Army (Runtime: 96 minutes)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2014, 7 p.m., Spies of the Mississippi (Runtime: 53 minutes)

GIDEON’S ARMY follows the personal stories of Travis Williams, Brandy Alexander and June Hardwick, three young public defenders who are part of a small group of idealistic lawyers in the Deep South challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point. Backed by mentor Jonathan “Rap” Rapping, a charismatic leader who heads the Southern Public Defender Training Center (now known as Gideon’s Promise) they struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads so common that even the most committed often give up in their first year. Nearly 50 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling Gideon vs. Wainwright that established the right to counsel, can these courageous lawyers revolutionize the way America thinks about indigent defense and make “justice for all” a reality?
 
An official selection in the prestigious U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, GIDEON’S ARMY was awarded the editing prize at the festival. The film premiered on HBO in July 2013.

SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI: It is the spring of 1964 and a long, hot Mississippi summer is about to explode. The civil rights community is gearing up for a major operation nicknamed Mississippi Freedom Summer.  Hundreds — if not thousands — of mostly white student activists from the North are preparing to link up with dozens of mostly black freedom workers in the Magnolia State to accomplish what the Mississippi power structure fears the most: registering black people to vote. The state’s entrenched white power structure has a different name for Freedom Summer — they call it an “invasion” and they are ready to fight back.  For the segregationists Freedom Summer is nothing less than a declaration of war on the Mississippi way of life. The state responds by fortifying its Highway Patrol and 82 county sheriff offices with hundreds of newly sworn-in deputies, stockpiling tear gas and riot gear in larger cities and preparing prison wardens and county jailers to expect an influx of summer guests. This tinderbox needs very little to ignite.

But the most powerful men in the state have another even more powerful weapon in their arsenal — a secret so well kept it is known to only a small circle of insiders: The state of Mississippi has entered the spy business. A no-nonsense group called the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission has quietly created a secret, state-funded spy agency answering directly to the Governor.  The Commission has infiltrated the civil rights coalition, eavesdropping on its most private meetings, and pilfering its most sensitive documents.

Dawn Porter is currently working on two new films: TRAPPED, which recently received grant funds from the MacArthur Foundation and explores the impact of efforts to close abortion clinics in the South; and THE NEW JIM CROW, which focuses on America's mass incarceration rates and is based on Michelle Alexander's book by the same name.

Porter's projects have received generous grant awards from the Ford Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Sundance Film Institute, Chicken & Egg Pictures and other esteemed organizations.

Prior to her independent filmmaking, Porter worked as Director of Standards and Practices at ABC News and as Vice President of Standard and Practices at A&E Television Networks. She was an Executive Producer on SERIOUS MOONLIGHT (Magnolia Pictures), written by Adrienne Shelley and starring Meg Ryan and Timothy Hutton and THE GREEN (Showtime Networks) starring Cheyenne Jackson (30 Rock) and Julia Ormond.

Porter is the fourth visiting filmmaker in the William and Stephanie Clohesy Documentary Film Series.  The goal of the series is to bring the world's most distinguished documentary filmmakers to UNI.  The series is sponsored by the UNI Department of Communication Studies, and supported by the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences, the Office of the President, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, and many Friends of the Series. The Series is directed by David O’Shields, filmmaker-in-residence and adjunct instructor in the department.

All screening events are free and open to the public. For more information, see Trilogy Films and www.clohesyseries.com.


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