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Best of the Week 2019-2020: Teaching to the Future


In 2019, students in the IB Film course worked together in partnership with Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), the West Side Catholic Center and St. Ed's Campus Ministry department to capture the stories of the unhoused in the city of Cleveland through film. Announced just today, the short documentary, entitled "Forest City Blues" has received three nominations from the 44th annual Oscar qualifying Cleveland International Film Festival for Best Ohio Short, Best Short Documentary and Best student film. Congratulations to Matt Shanahan (Director, Lead Editor), Mason Heben, Garrett Kirkpatrick and Zeke Schmiedl (Lead Editors), Connor Fairfield and Richard Perrins (Directors), Jack Dougher (Cinematographer) and the remaining IB Film crew members on your accomplishment! Click here to watch IB Film students' short documentary "Forest City Blues."

"Knowing that 'Forest City Blues' will be featured in this year's CIFF is simply amazing," says Connor Fairfield '20. "The goal of the documentary was not to receive awards or recognition, but to inform the people of the greater Cleveland area about the severe problem of homelessness. What surprised me most after hearing the stories that were shared was how no story was exactly the same as another. There are often stereotypes associated with why people end up in the situations they're in, but our film, in a sense, debunks those stereotypes and shows how every person has a story and we never really know what people are going through unless we sit down and have a sincere, genuine conversation with them."

"Throughout the making of this short documentary, I gained a newfound understanding of the struggle that homeless people go through every single day," says Richard Perrins '20. "The interviews we conducted helped me realize that with increased visibility on this issue, this documentary could lead to much-needed legislation on finally finding a solution to homelessness in Cleveland. Our Holy Cross values as Edsmen reflect a desire to lead through service and to build lasting relationships. Simply engaging in conversation with those we featured in our documentary allowed each of us to build relationships with those who have been marginalized in society. I thought it was powerful that this documentary was entirely student-run with student directors, editors, cinematographers and even student musicians, featuring alum and 2019 Man of the Year Teon Smith '19. St. Ed's mission to share our Holy Cross mission through servant leadership and relationships is truly embodied through our work and our student involvement on this film emphasized this connection."

"I hope that viewers of our film learn that those who are homeless are still human and share a lot in common with each of us," says Matthew Shanahan '20. "For example, I learned one of the interviewees that he and I both had a very similar upbringing. We both played hockey and guitar growing up and even shared the same favorite professional hockey player. I think that even if just one viewer learns that we are all together and one in the same, then the whole filmmaking process was worth it."

"I think when students are in the middle of the editing process, they come across footage where the interview subjects' testimonials resist easy classification. There's almost this instinct to cut parts of the story that don't neatly fit," says Associate Dean of Academics and IB Coordinator Mr. Nick Kuhar. "For example, Q really challenged our guys' sense of how education and homelessness intersect. When he rattled off his various degrees and accomplishments, I think it left our students a bit stunned, but the detail with which Q goes into how diverse his interests and education were highlights a personal history we might not imagine that's behind the person waiting in line for a bowl of soup at Herman House. My hope is that, by extension, our students think more deeply about how they engage with the unhoused, whether through service outings like Labre or even passing by a citizen asking for change outside a Cavs game."

"I hope our film inspires people to make a change within their own community by simply recognizing that there are people who struggle on a daily basis and need our help," says Connor. "Yes, there are programs out there that do help these people, but if we really want to make a change, we need to take action and connect with them on a personal level. Not only can our film teach people to look beyond their own personal bubbles, but it allows those who are struggling to know that there's someone out there who genuinely cares for their well-being."

Photo by Hilary Bovay Photography

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