Lumbee River Independent Film Festival


UNCP’s first film festival was a student affair

UNC Pembroke’s students proved once again their resourcefulness in organizing the first Lumbee River Independent Film Festival that was held April 11 at the Regional Center.

It was the first film festival in UNCP history, and it featured expertly designed tickets, program, promotions and t-shirts. There was popcorn too.


Student Organizers (from left): Stephen Townsend, Kallie Wright, Mia Winterbottom and Elizabeth Menzel

Student Organizers (from left): Stephen Townsend, Kallie Wright, Mia Winterbottom and Elizabeth Menzel


Featuring six films, it was a service-learning project of four students in Dr. Dandan Liu’s mass communi- cation class.  Their goal was to raise funds for another film project, “Voices of the Lumbee,” an ongoing oral history service-learning project of two other faculty members.

“The students did an excellent job putting their creativity on display,” Dr. Liu said. “Every year we choose local non profit organizations to work with an create a public relations campaign for them. The film festival was the students’ idea.”

Films ranged from the supernatural to art to history. Grant Merritt, a 2010 alumnus of UNCP’s Mass Communication Department, debuted his film “That Feeling of Isolation, in Retrograde.”

“It’s about the transformative nature of water; water is always in motion like our lives,” Merritt said. “I wrote the poem to go with it.”

Merritt, who has made several video projects for UNCP since his graduation, stretched his talents to the artistic side with beautiful shots of water in all its forms.

The film festival coincided with the 9th annual Southeast Indian Studies Conference, and it took advantage of the synergy. Filmmaker Gene Smith showed his film “Forgotten Tragedy: The Tuscarora War.”

“I retired from the Navy, and this is something I did as a hobby,” Smith said. “I’m from Snow Hill, near where the Tuscarora War was fought.”

Connections were everywhere. Smith was not aware that local American Indian hero, Henry Berry Lowrie, claimed Tuscarora heritage.

“Voices of the Lumbee” is an ongoing multi-year project that originated in Dr. Michele Fazio’s English class and has reached out to the local community and across campus.

“Student engagement is at the heart of this project,” Dr. Fazio told the audience. “What they are learning here is an array of skills that will help them in their endeavors throughout their lives.”

Jason Hutchens’ mass communication class is providing the videography for the project. He made a video appearance at the film festival with a clip from the larger project.

“We are still editing, and the project will be complete next year,” Hutchens said. “I was looking for a good story, and I found it. It begins with the tribe’s rich cultural heritage and moves along to contemporary economic conditions in Robeson County.”

“Voices of the Lumbee” is a story told by tribal elders of personal struggles, of leaving home for jobs, and of personal and community resiliency and strength. Fifty elders participated and their stories will be told in video and written word, Dr. Fazio said.

“We are answering the question ‘who’s your people’,” she said. ‘We’ve learned a lot. We’ve been on the streets, at powwows, in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and even in a tobacco field. If I had known there were snakes there, I might have reconsidered that one.”

For the students, it was “months of hard work,” said Elizabeth Menzel. “But worth it.”

The team of four students included Stephen Townsend, Kallie Wright, Mia Winterbottom and Menzel.