Four New Villanova Student Produced Social Justice Documentaries to Premiere in April and May

Poster of, "Art of Resistance"

Villanova, Pa – Villanova University’s Social Justice Documentary filmmaking course is known for producing documentaries that shed light on important narratives; many of the films receive local and national recognition. In spring 2024, two student production companies will premiere a total of four new documentaries featuring powerful stories of cultural preservation, community, education and empowerment.

The Social Justice Documentary program includes two student cohorts—one focused on a story about a local issue and the other on an international topic. Guided by faculty, students undergo a two-semester journey studying the art of filmmaking and producing as they visit diverse communities. The students are not only dedicated to highlighting these communities’ stories, but they also become champions for the causes they document—often leading volunteer or fundraising initiatives which engage their fellow Villanovans. The course is managed by the Communication Department in Villanova’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and is open to students across the University.

Poster of, "Mestre Guga"

One of the new international documentaries, “The Art of Resistance,” was produced by Stained Glass Films, a student-run production group in the Social Justice Documentary course led by Hezekiah L. Lewis III, MFA, associate professor of Communication. During their two-week stay in Salvador, Brazil, students immersed themselves in Bahian culture where they learned about quilombos, communities established by those escaping slavery, and the importance of maintaining Afro-Brazilian culture. "Art of Resistance" shares how Quilombola leader, Rejane Rodrigues, is inspired by her ancestry and raises her daughter, Raquel, to carry on the tradition of preserving their heritage.

While in Brazil, students visited an urban neighborhood in Itapuã, home to the Capoeira Mundo Negro studio led by Guga Oliveira. Their second film “Mestre Guga” showcases Guga’s impactful role within his community as he teaches young students martial arts, life lessons and the value of education.

Poster of, "Peaking Through the Sand"

The students also traveled to Tubarão where they met Dany Hora, a single mother who faces challenges to support her son Paulo’s education. The final international documentary, “Peaking Through the Sand,” takes viewers on a journey through Dany’s daily life, highlighting the strong bond between mother and son as well as the power of education and community in overcoming hardships.

“Through this experience I have built bonds with people across the world, and I have participated in a learning environment that is constantly pushing me to be better,” says Zenaida De La Cruz ’24 CLAS. “I have learned so much about Salvador da Bahia, the production process and the community we have built on campus. As a group, we have positively impacted the lives of many people.”

Tickets are now available for the premiere of “Art of Resistance,” “Mestre Guga” and “Peaking Through the Sand” at 6:30 p.m on Thursday, May 2 in the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts.

Poster of, "Empower U"

LOCAM Productions, a student-run production company and part of the Social Justice Documentary course taught by Tania Romero, PhD, assistant professor of Communication, is proud to announce the release of their documentary, “Empower U.” Through interviews with sexual assault survivors, student advocates and community leaders from around the country, the film explores the cultural factors that perpetuate sexual violence on college campuses and the need for institutional and societal change.

“Our crew, our professors and these incredible advocates have all come together to make the film ‘Empower U,’ a documentary which I hope will continue to bring light to the issue of sexual violence on college campuses and continue to empower people who are fighting for change,” says Maya McCabe ’25 CLAS.

LOCAM Productions will host an on-campus film screening on Tuesday, April 30 at 6 p.m. in the Connelly Cinema. The event is free and open to the public.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has been the heart of the Villanova learning experience, offering foundational courses for undergraduate students in every college of the University. Serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students, the College is committed to fortifying them with intellectual rigor, multidisciplinary knowledge, moral courage and a global perspective. The College has more than 40 academic departments and programs across the humanities, social sciences, and natural and physical sciences.