Documentary series coming to campus

Western Carolina University will offer a series of films on topics from local food  to the perils of plastic to the life of a forgotten civil rights activist as it again hosts the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers for the 2012-13 academic year.

WCU’s Arts and Cultural Events series, or ACE, in collaboration with South Arts, sponsors the tour of independent films and filmmakers that provides communities across the South access to smaller films and opportunities to join film directors in discussion. All Southern Circuit offerings are free and will start at 7:30 p.m. in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center. Refreshments and a question-and-answer session with the film’s director will follow.

A film about the career and personal life of stage and screen veteran Joe Papp is first up on the Southern Circuit tour at Western Carolina University. The documentary will screen at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, at WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center theater, with a question-and-answer session with one of the film’s directors to follow.

First up is “Joe Papp in Five Acts” on Tuesday, Sept. 4. This feature-length documentary tells the story of the New Yorker who introduced interracial casting to the American stage and created the concept of free Shakespeare in the park and the Broadway classics “Hair” and “A Chorus Line.” Stage and screen veterans offering insights on Papp’s accomplishments and tumultuous personal history include Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Kevin Kline and James Earl Jones. Tracie Holder and Karen Thorson wrote, directed and produced the film; Holder will be on hand at WCU for the post-screening discussion.

Coming Tuesday, Oct. 9, is the documentary “An Encounter with Simone Weil,” the story of a French philosopher, activist and mystic of the 1930s. Filmmaker Julia Haslett interweaves her own personal struggles, including a father who committed suicide, in this survey of a tireless advocate for the poor and unemployed. The film ultimately is an exploration of moral responsibility and living life with compassion.

“Is your life too plastic?” asks the tagline for “Bag It,” a documentary showing Tuesday, Nov. 13. What starts as a film about plastic bags evolves into an investigation into plastic and its effect on the environment and people’s bodies. While the directors Michelle Hill and Suzan Beraza are unable to tour with the film, “Bag It” narrator and front man Jeb Berrier, an actor and host for a morning television show on Plum TV, is scheduled to appear on their behalf.

“Eating Alabama,” a documentary about a young couple’s search for a simpler life, will show Tuesday, Feb. 19. When a new job brings director Andrew Grace and his wife, Rashmi, home to Alabama, they determine to eat the way their grandparents did – locally and seasonally. But as they navigate the agro-industrial gastronomical complex, they soon realize that nearly everything about the food system has changed since the time farmers populated their families.

A forgotten civil rights activist is the subject of a documentary showing Tuesday, March 19. In “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock,” filmmaker Sharon La Cruise unravels the life of Daisy Bates, head of the Arkansas NAACP in the 1950s who protected and showed public support for the nine black students who registered to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, resulting in a constitutional crisis. Unconventional, revolutionary, egotistical and a feminist before the term existed, Bates refused to accept her assigned place in society.

Wrapping up the series for the 2012-13 academic year is “Follow the Leader,” screening Tuesday, April 16. This documentary tells the story of three 16-year-old high school class presidents who all dream of one day becoming commander in chief of the USA. The film, by U.K. filmmaker Jonathan Goodman Levitt, follows the boys over three years as they reconsider their political beliefs and career ambitions.

The goal of ACE is to bring high-quality, entertaining, thought-provoking arts and cultural events to the WCU campus. For more information about the Southern Circuit film series or other ACE offerings, contact Lori Davis, assistant director for campus activities, at 828-227-3622 or email Visit ACE online at