The Department of Mass Media at Southeast Missouri State University will launch its See Me Series at 6 p.m. March 30 at the Forrest H. Rose Theatre with the screening of Maya Angelou’s 1972 independent film, “Georgia, Georgia.”
A discussion event with Dirk Benedict, the film’s last surviving principal cast member, will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 6 at Rose Theatre.
The first original feature film screenplay solely credited to an African American woman, “Georgia, Georgia” is a film that was ahead of its time culturally, politically and socially, and one that remains as relevant today as it was then. Angelou uses the framework of a romantic encounter to tell a more complex story involving themes of gender, sexuality, race, celebrity and class.
The screening in March will feature a panel discussion with Southeast faculty whose students are participating in a multidisciplinary study of the themes presented in “Georgia, Georgia.” The panel will include Dr. Dana Branson, assistant professor of criminal justice, social work and sociology, Dr. Joel Rhodes, professor of history and anthropology, Roxanne Wellington, associate professor of theatre, and Dr. Samantha Washington, assistant professor of communication disorders.
The film study and discussion event is also the launch of a new initiative by the Department of Mass Media entitled The See Me Series, which is designed to bring explorations of and conversations about diverse creative media work to the Southeast campus.
Dr. Karie Hollerbach, mass media professor and project director, has recruited 16 faculty in nine academic departments across campus to screen the film in one or more of their spring classes and have students complete different kinds of assignments relevant to both their classes and the film.
One such faculty member is Dr. Brooke Clubbs, assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Middle and Secondary Education, whose Equity and Access in Higher Education course teaches future student affairs professionals to engage a variety of student populations. One of the learning outcomes for the course is for students to compare and contrast current issues of student equity and access with historical contexts which connects to the use of this film, as seen in all the main characters looking for equity and access in different ways.
The course also discusses intersectionality, Clubbs said, which is evident in the film.
Clubbs used clips from the film in class and has asked her students to answer forum questions based on what they saw.
“For example, when Georgia is asked to speak for all Black people at the press conference when she arrives in Sweden, I related it to our students of color being asked to speak for all people of their race or ethnicity during class discussions or other situations on college campuses,” Clubbs said.
Clubbs’ students will also write a response paper to the 1972 film, reflecting on what it means today and answering questions like, “What has changed and what remains the same regarding identity expectations and intersectionality?”
Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck, professor and chair of the Department of Mass Media, said the film’s relevance 50 years after its original release is significant, and she hopes people see value in the stories and themes being fostered by the story.
“We keep telling our students about the social function media plays in society,” Buck said. “The intersection of media with other disciplines is something we should explore to demonstrate the importance and impact our work has in framing all types of discussions and work.”
Clubbs said she would be happy to participate in the See Me Series again and loves the idea of the University having a common experience — such as common book programs when students, faculty, and staff are all encouraged to read a particular book before the beginning of an academic year.
“I think that bringing together people from a variety of disciplines to examine a film and discuss it is a great way to build community and create memorable experiences,” Clubbs said.
Buck said she was thankful to Hollerbach for having the vision to develop her project into a sustainable program.
“I believe any opportunity to elevate the significance of diverse stories should be taken because it provides weight to stories that might otherwise be overlooked,” Buck said.
Produced by Jack Jordan and Quentin Kelly, “Georgia, Georgia” was the first of three made by their company Jorkel, Inc. Jordan, an African American with connections to creative personnel and performers, and Kelly, an Irish American with connections to marketing and business financing, wanted to make films that told stories from the African American perspective and that would be the opposite of the blaxploitation films that were popular in the early 1970s.
The film starred Tony-nominated actress Diana Sands and film newcomer actor Dirk Benedict, who would go on to have a successful stage, film and television career that included performances of two iconic television characters: Starbuck on “Battlestar Galactica” and Templeton Peck (aka “Face”) on “The A-Team.”
For the future of the See Me Series, Buck said she is interested in pursuing projects that inspire and excite faculty.
“Rather than dictating in a narrow manner how the series develops, my hope is faculty see the series as an opportunity to explore interesting and lesser-known subjects and creators,” she said. “A manner that benefits all involved.”
For more information on “Georgia, Georgia,” or the See Me Series, visit semo.edu/ see-me.