Student filmmakers sit in the editing room to discuss the project.

Villanova students create documentaries about important societal issues—sometimes staying in the Philadelphia area, sometimes journeying as far as Ghana, India, or Costa Rica.

The Social Justice Documentary program is a two-semester course through the Communication Department open to students across the College and University. As part of this unique program, students spend the semester learning about film and then creating documentaries that allow them to become advocates for important societal issues—sometimes staying in the Philadelphia area, sometimes journeying as far as Ghana, India, or Costa Rica. Each year, the students create their own production companies and submit their film to festivals around the world—winning local, regional and national awards. In 2019, the Villanova student film, Sankofa, won Gold Medal in the Documentary/Domestic Film Schools Category at the Student Academy Awards.


Funding and Support

The Social Justice Documentary program is funded by Villanova’s Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society and the Nord Family Foundation.


Faculty Coordinators

Hezekiah Lewis, MFA

Tania Romero, PhD


2024 FILMS

"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. 

"Mestre Guga" showcases one man's impactful role in his community as he teaches young students martial arts, life lessons and the value of education.

“Peaking Through the Sand” highlights the strong bond between mother and son as well as the power of education and community in overcoming hardships.

"Empower U" explores the cultural factors that perpetuate sexual violence on college campuses and the need for institutional and societal change. 



Trailers for every film are linked below. Full-length films are available for viewing by request only. Email us!

2022 – 2023

  • NINA shares the story of students’ and faculty’s resilience and determination from Nina School for the Deaf in Siaya, Kenya in the face of societal stigma and government de-prioritization of the school’s needs.
  • Her Time is Now follows two women in Siaya as they navigate economic and social challenges within a patriarchal context. 
  • Say What You See follows the journey of Thomas Reid, who became blind as an adult and turned his disability into a call for action by creating a podcast to advocate for audio description.

2021 – 2022

  • Rooted focuses on the healing and inspiring power of Bomba music, a traditional form of drumming originating from the West African slaves who were brought to the island in the 1700s.
  • We Don’t Walk in Fear follows American political activist Daryle Lamont Jenkins in his life-long quest to fight against racism and bigotry from hate groups across the United States.

2020 – 2021

  • I Am Still Here shares the story of two indigenous women, Meg and Cordelia, who fight to learn, sustain and preserve their culture.

2019 – 2020

  • From the Ground Up focuses on a woman named Adija and her community in Malolo, Singida, which lacks access to clean water.
  • Warrior Class focuses on three veterans from Philadelphia and their transition from service to civilian life. 

2018 – 2019

  • Carrying Tomorrow shares the hopes and hardships of expecting mothers in rural Ethiopia who are facing barriers to safe, accessible, surgical care and portrays a community of health workers joining together to challenge this issue.
  • Relentless, a series of recoveries is a four part documentary mini-series about opioid addiction, recovery, and the tireless work those in the greater Philadelphia community do to fight substance abuse.

2017 – 2018

  • Sankofa is about mental slavery and its negative systemic impact on black males across the world.
  • The Mayor of Graterford examines the issue of life without parole sentencing and the commutation process in Pennsylvania through the experiences of current and former inmates.

2016 – 2017

  • POSI+IVE follows Mandisa Madikane, a black, lesbian, South African woman, as she uses her voice to inspire those battling against the stigmas of HIV, race and gender. 
  • Hope Works Here illustrates the healing effect nonprofit organization HopeWorks ‘N Camden has on the lives of youth.
  • Gold Mettle gives audiences a rare and inspirational look into the daily challenges faced by those with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers, coupled with the tremendous sense of joy, accomplishment and friendship provided by Special Olympics.

2015 – 2016

  • Limbo shares the stories of African migrants seeking refuge in Italy during the migration crisis.
  • Room for Peace shows the transition of refugees from war torn countries, poverty and famine to newly minted Philadelphians adjusting both to a new culture and a diversity of cultures within St. Francis de Sales School.

2014 – 2015

  • One is No One is an inspiring film about a family's struggle against systemic poverty in an impoverished Costa Rican community.
  • In Transition: Tony Chennault follows former Villanova basketball player Tony Chennault’s evolution from a basketball prodigy living in the Olney section of Philadelphia to a budding filmmaker determined to inspire young athletes to widen their horizons.

2013 – 2014

  • Before We Sleep tells the story of an impoverished community in India who unite to overcome issues of abuse, alcoholism and hopelessness with a helping hand from a local Philadelphia nonprofit. 
  • Heel’d is about the local Philadelphia nonprofit Hand2Paw and its mission to bring together homeless youth and homeless animals.

2012 – 2013

  • Rise and Shine tells the inspiring story of two students—one from Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion High, the other from The Heritage Academy in Essiam, Ghana—and their unflagging determination to learn
  • All of Us Home highlights the work performed by the Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia (SREHUP) and brings attention to the ongoing problem of homelessness in Philadelphia.

2011 – 2012

  • Out of the Shadows chronicles Fernanda Marroquin’s struggle for legitimacy and a path to citizenship while shining a spotlight on the fear and intimidation undocumented immigrants face daily.
  • Beyond These Walls is about the everyday challenges and accomplishments of students with blindness and visual impairment enrolled at Overbrook School for the Blind.

2010 – 2011

  • Who is Wright chronicles the story of Julius Wright, whose unique brand of music helped him overcome a painful youth on the streets of south Philadelphia.
  • No Greater Pain tells the story of Dorothy Johnson-Speight and four other Philadelphia mothers who lost sons to violence and formed an organization, Mothers in Charge, to provide support and prevent violence through education and intervention.

2009 – 2010

  • Meh Sha chronicles the story of a teenage Burmese immigrant’s poignant struggle to be accepted in his adopted city of Philadelphia.
  • Coming off the DL aims to break down the stereotypes of people with disabilities through the story of two young men with cerebral palsy.

Spring 2009

  • Price of Life chronicles the journey of an ex-con, Robert Childs, whose rough upbringing on the streets of Philadelphia led to a life of violence, drugs and illegal weapons.