VILLANOVA, Pa. – Growing up in North Philadelphia, Tony Chennault ’14 CLAS dreamed about one day becoming a professional athlete. Following a stellar career at Neumann-Goretti High School, Chennault was recruited to play Division I basketball at Wake Forest University and seemed on-track to accomplish his goal. A series of life-changing events, however, brought Chennault to Villanova University, where he would finish his career as a basketball player and begin a new path as a filmmaker and community activist.
“In Transition: Tony Chennault,” a short documentary written, filmed and produced by a social justice documentary class in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova will make its debut at a 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 screening in the Connelly Center Cinema on Villanova’s Main Campus . The event is free and open to the public. The film follows Chennault’s evolution from a basketball prodigy living in the Olney section of Philadelphia, who seems destined for a career in professional basketball, to a budding filmmaker determined to inspire young athletes to widen their horizons.
Chennault made the move from Wake Forest to Villanova to be closer to his mother, who had fallen ill. After enrolling at Villanova, Chennault was faced with another personal tragedy – the murder of his brother, Mike, a father-figure who had introduced him to the game of basketball. Just over a year later, Chennault’s mother passed away from a heart attack. The loss of his mother and brother caused Chennault to reassess his passion for basketball. This brought him to a low-point as basketball was all Chennault knew, and he had no plan for a life without it.
Eventually, Chennault decided to explore another passion of his brother’s – filmmaking. After taking a course through Villanova’s Department of Communication, he started his own film company, 267 Productions, with the goal of using his story to educate inner-city youths who may share similar positions and experiences. Chennault has begun speaking at schools and sports camps in the Philadelphia area, and hopes to use the documentary to show young athletes that sports are not the sole path to success and that having an education is paramount.
“This year's social justice documentary project is particularly special,” said Elinore Wright, a student in the class and the film’s director. “Tony has endured countless tragedy, loss, and hardship in his life, yet has still managed to come out on top. He has set out to make an impact on the youth of Philadelphia, and it's our hope that this film helps him to do that by bringing awareness to the commendable path he has chosen.”
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 six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies 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. For more, visit www.villanova.edu.