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Athens history on film

Alan Flurry

The Athens Film Project will launch the first three of its very short films at Ciné’s Lab at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17. A project of the Athens Historical Society that began during the early days of the pandemic, the Film Project’s goal is to create films on Athens history for local 11th grade U.S. History classes. The first two films are already available online on YouTube.

"I'm really excited about this effort to make history meaningful by making it local," said Cindy Hahamovitch, B. Phinizy Spalding Distinguished Professor of History and Executive Producer of the project. "We started with the standards – the facts and concepts Georgia teachers have to teach – and looked for local stories to illuminate them."  

Hahamovitch credits UGA alumna Peggy Galis and Jane McPherson, associate professor in the School of Social Work, as instrumental forces in bringing the Athens Film Project to fruition.

The first of the very short films – 5 to 7 minutes each – to be completed are  “Emancipation” by UGA MFA film student Emani Saucier and “the Knox Institute,” Athen’s famous Freedmen’s Bureau School, by local resident Jesse Freeman. Bryant Barnes, history PhD student, wrote the treatment for "Emancipation." Georgia Film Academy instructor Phil Bergquist is putting the finishing touches on "Industrial Athens I" also written by Barnes, which chronicles the history of the textile industry in Athens through the Civil War. A film on the history of Athens industry after the war is in the works, as are films on the founding of Athens and Indian Removal, Reconstruction, and the Cold War. Future topics include slavery, the Civil War, and the New Deal.

The Athens Film Project reflects a true town and gown collaboration. Three UGA faculty members serve on the Film Committee, which includes community members, teachers, the Social Studies Coordinator for the A-CC school system, and the Archives and Special Collections Coordinator for the Athens Regional Library System. Galis has raised over $100,000 from local supporters, including the Langdale Foundation, Margaret Smith, Grady Thrasher, and Kathy Prescott. Grants from Georgia Humanities and the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia helped jumpstart the project. UGA’s History Department helps fund the graduate student fellows who research and write the treatments and help to secure images and permission to use them. 

History students at Cedar Shoals High School vetted the first two films and gave their stamp of approval. Cedar Shoals teacher Montu Miller said students particularly liked the images, and the local stories they hadn't heard of before.

The launch event will screen the three short films after which a panel of Film Project members and filmmakers will take questions about the films and the process. Food and beverages will be available. The event is open to the public though seating is limited. 


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