Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:Four Georgetown Alumni Featured at Silverdocs Film Festival

By Christina Cauterucci (C ’10)

Just a few months after the launch of Georgetown’s new minor in Film and Media Studies, four alumni filmmakers screened their work at the 2011 AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival in Washington, DC

The Silver Spring, Md., festival featured Age of Champions, directed by Christopher Rufo (F’06); The Loving Story, produced and edited by Elisabeth Haviland James (F’99); Rebirth, directed by Jim Whitaker (C’90); and Miss Representation, executive produced by Regina Scully (SLL’85). Rebirth and Miss Representation were also screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Rufo’s film, which follows the silver-haired athletes of the National Senior Games, challenges common notions of physical capacity for the over-65 crowd.

“I thought it’d just be some old folks splashing around in the swimming pool,” says Rufo of his first day behind the camera. But documentary is an unpredictable art, and losing a tennis match to the 100-year-old national champion convinced Rufo otherwise. “These are some serious competitors,” he says. Octogenarian swimmers—and brothers—Bradford and John Tatum speak freely in Age of Champions about the segregated pools of their youth. As black boys growing up in Washington, D.C., the Tatums couldn’t play in the white pools, so they swam in the reflecting pool on the National Mall. Now, Bradford battles colorectal cancer and attends chemotherapy sessions between swim practices.

“You can tell right off the bat how open and responsive someone will be,” says Rufo of conducting interviews for his documentary. “We were up-front with Bradford about wanting to film his cancer treatment, and he was on board right away.” At Age of Champions’ debut at Silverdocs, the theatre filled with applause as the audience watched Bradford win his race and flaunt his Pacemaker onscreen, still dripping from the pool. Beaming with pride, the Tatum brothers fielded questions from the crowd alongside Rufo and producer Keith Ochwat after the screening.

James’ The Loving Story features the couple whose interracial marriage in 1958 was the impetus for the Supreme Court case that ended all legal restrictions on marriage based on race. The film saw enormous success at Silverdocs, where it won the Writer’s Guild of America Documentary Screenplay Award. James and Rufo both visited Georgetown’s campus in June to speak to a film festival studies class taught by Bernard Cook (C’90, G’91), director of the film and media studies program.

Rufo credits legendary Georgetown English professor John Glavin (C’64) with teaching him the fundamentals of character development and dramatic storylines. For his part, Glavin says, “I’ve never taught anyone as committed to his art as Chris Rufo.” With a slew of Hoya documentarians on the rise, Georgetown’s future as a breeding ground for filmmakers looks bright.