'Unearthing the Dream' by filmmaker Pam Uzzell gives the experience of integration from the perspective of a totally black high school as they integrate in their senior year to a white high school in the years of Civil Rights in Arkansas and in the country. An interview with Pam about the film made clear the distinctions of this work and the value of it now. It is important that the process of integration at the level of its participants be known to us rather than disappearing into the culture. It was a struggle. It is a struggle. The film won Best Documentary in a film festival in Arkansas this past fall, and has been recognized as a contribution on many levels. The editing, music and material of the film draws you into the experience of this integration seen through the eyes of the students of Malvern, Arkansas. There is the feeling of being allowed in, and not driven to any particular viewpoint or position.
Hot Springs Film Festival
The Hot Springs Film Festival 20 minutes away from where the film was shot, also acknowledged this independent documentary featuring the people who attended Malvern's Black high school. In the film, the students speak from where they are now and look at the past and what it communicated to them as participants in this life changing historical period of transition and desegregation. When the film was presented in Hot Springs, Pam comments, those students, now in their 50's and 60's were present at the filming and engaged in a lively exchange at the Question and Answer part of the evening. In the film, as in their attendance and participation in the Hot Springs Film Festival, their pride in what they lived through is evident.
Those students in the film recognized that the generation that proceeded them, their parents and grandparents, had very high expectations of them, and life was quite different in Malvern, Arkansas as compared with other segregated areas. What you see in this film is an "incredible amount of self worth and confidence that they express and attribute to their families and community," the filmmaker says in gratitude to the subjects of the film.
Their parents were visionary, the participants say in the film. They could imagine their children to be doctors, lawyers, even though that never existed in their lifetime. There were no black fireman, no black policeman, but the parents and the teachers constantly expanded the high school students of Malvern of notions of what was possible.
The changes that came were bittersweet, Pam observes, for the people in the film. Integration did take place and the people in the film have lived to see the first African American President. They believe none of that could have happened without integration, but they present the personal cost to them as well. In their black high schools, their bands, their churches, their football teams, their cheerleaders- their identity was embedded and rewarded, but did not transfer to the new mixed race high school.
"I think that's always going to be a painful point for them. They've had forty years or more to reflect on this and I think for alot of them, some really life altering and potentially traumatic changes happened for them personally in the transition of integration," observes Pam.
'Unearthing the Dream' to be presented Wednesday March 6th, 2013
"People of age 50 and over see this film as validation of the history they lived through. People in Berkley for instance see a very similar picture of that experience. Desegregation is a good thing, most people would agree, but what is at stake is loosing the integrity of the identity and community as is evident in the film," Pam states. "Segregation is inherently bad for all people. I think people think that the African American community came to the white high school with empty pockets, but this film shows they were creators and brought much from their experience. They brought their talents, their music, their sports and their dreams."