Community Engagement and History in Documentary Production: A Case Study

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 4:15pm
Maginnes Hall, Room 102

Documentary filmmaker Bill Kavanagh will talk about community engagement and uncovering grassroots history in documentary production.

In this context, he will refer to his film on a federal desegregation lawsuit in Yonkers, New York. The documentary film he produced, Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story, followed three families through the crucible of the litigation, known as US v. Yonkers.

The federal anti-discrimination suit lasted for 27 years, from its initial filing in 1980, to a 1985 ruling, to a final settlement, reached in 2007. During this period, the city of Yonkers integrated its schools, but appealed the litigation on housing discrimination all the way to the US Supreme Court. Yonkers skirted bankruptcy over fines incurred, but finally built some 200 units of low-income housing and several hundred units of affordable housing to satisfy its obligations under a consent decree.

Bill Kavanagh, producer / director, recently produced and directed the documentary short, "A Matter of Place," on housing discrimination and those who fight it. It won best documentary short at the first annual Catskill Mountain Film Festival in 2014 and has been used by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to educate the public and professionals in fair housing. Kavanagh is currently working on a documentary film in Bethlehem about economic changes in circumstances for workers over the last several decades.