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Villanova University Social Justice Documentary Looks at Education Disparity Through the Eyes of Two Students a World Apart in Philadelphia and Ghana

First Screening of Film To be Held May 2 at The Ritz East Theatre, Philadelphia

"Rise and Shine" poster

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Philadelphian Marcquis Graham and Godsway Anderson from Cape Coast, Ghana live 5,149 miles apart. But, in their fight to get a good education they occupy the same ground. The inspiring story of the two students -- one from Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion High, the other from The Heritage Academy in Essiam, Ghana -- and their unflagging determination to learn, are the subject of “Rise and Shine” an inspiring film produced by a Villanova University Social Justice Documentary class. The first screening of the film will be held May 2 (at 7 p.m.), at the Ritz East Theatre in Philadelphia. Award-winning filmmaker MK Asante, Jr. will be the featured guest speaker. The screening is free and open to the public. Tickets can be reserved online at 

The film, written and produced by students from a Social Justice Documentary course in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, follows the parallel lives of the American and Ghanian students as they overcome a series of staggering obstacles to claim their right to a good education. Their opposite, yet similar experiences shine a searchlight on the glaring disparity in equal access to quality education worldwide.

“To see this group of Villanova students bond as a team and bond with the wonderful people who have allowed us to document their lives is inspiring,” said Villanova Communication professor Hezekiah Lewis, who teaches the social justice documentary course and is executive producer of the film.“ “Their sacrifice and respect for this project has made me proud.”

Five1Four9 Productions, the name the Villanova documentary class adopted for their working group refers to the miles in distance from Philadelphia to Cape Coast, Ghana. The social documentary course for which “Rise and Shine” was produced is offered under the auspices of Villanova’s Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society. The Center engages students in producing professional quality documentary films that spotlight contemporary social justice issues.

“Rise and Shine” writer and marketing crew member Julie Smith said working on the film has been one of the most meaningful experiences of her time as a Villanova student.

“With equal opportunity education being at the forefront of political discourse, the stakes of our project are ultimately high. Working with such inspiring people both here in Philly and overseas in Ghana makes our film so much more than just another student project. We realize that this film has given us a platform to raise awareness and rally people in support of the people who are fighting so hard to gain access to a quality education,” Smith commented.

In addition to the film, Five1Four9 Productions, sponsored an Education Summit April 13 on the University’s Main Campus to offer a forum to discuss the most pressing issues facing educators today.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.