Moses Brown grad directs film about South African apartheid

14 July 2017

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Lydia Beal, a 2017 graduate of Moses Brown High School, knew exactly what to pursue for her senior project. The film she created is the culmination of more than a year’s connection with a Xhosa township in South Africa. Beal used footage she captured during the summer of 2016 while working abroad with Universal Promise, a Portsmouth-based agency that provides schooling and social services to South Africans in the aftermath of apartheid.

The opportunity surfaced after Beal, a Jamestown native, won the high school’s Owen Award as a junior. The honor is given to third-year students so they can study independently with an emphasis on international service.

“I offered an outlet for the frustrations that the residents shared with such dignity,” she said.

The film’s story developed as Beal grew close to the Xhosa people she met in her travels. The interviews led her away from a scholarly study of apartheid to a first-person perspective that pushed Beal out of her comfort zone, she said. Among the tribulations, she witnessed 2,500 South Africans living on a former dumping ground.

“When I arrived, everything became real,” Beal said. “They’re the most compassionate people subjected to the worst subordination.”

Beal began with hours of film but edited the final version to 15 minutes, the longest video she’s ever made. Last summer, before Beal travelled to Africa, she created a promotional video for Universal Promise with footage from former volunteers and the South Africans they supported. The video highlights the organization’s accomplishments.

“I tried to create something that can bring even a fraction of my new consciousness to an audience, so that the unparalleled humanity I witnessed will be brought to light and the oppressed can be heard,” she said.

In turn, Beal hopes the American audience will draw a connection between the status of South Africa and the systemic racism in the United States.

Beal looks forward to the fall when she enrolls at Northeastern University in Boston. She hopes to develop her filmmaking skills to use in tandem with her studies.

“I plan to pursue other projects that provide relief for people who have been historically subjugated,” she said.

Source: JamesTown Press