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Eastern film 'Greenwood: A Dreamland Destroyed' screens at film festivals

Published on April 19, 2023

Eastern film 'Greenwood: A Dreamland Destroyed' screens at film festivals

Greenwood flyer A film about the Tulsa Race Massacre produced by faculty at Eastern Connecticut State University will screen April 22 at 11 a.m. at the Rhode Island Black Film Festival and April 26 at 9 p.m. at the Ridgewood International Film Festival in Ridgewood, NJ.

“Greenwood: A Dreamland Destroyed” is a film adaptation of the Eastern theatrical production “The Greenwood Project: Against Erasure,” which ran in spring 2022. The production combined dance, music, poetry and film and was directed by theatre Professor Brian Day, with poetry by English Professor Daniel Donaghy, choreography by theatre Professor Alycia Bright-Holland and music by music Professor Jeff Calissi.

Following the stage performance in April-May 2022, Day spent the summer and fall refining the film to serve as a stand-alone piece.

In addition to the Rhode Island and New Jersey screenings, the film has also been accepted at the Greenwood Film Festival in Tulsa, OK, Aug. 2–6 and received an honorable mention at the German International Film Festival this past February.

Set in the north Tulsa, OK, neighborhood of Greenwood, the film highlights the loss of life and damage to African American culture caused by the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. The production also showcases and celebrates the achievements of African Americans in the early 20th century.

The script of the 44-minute film is based on real testimony concerning the destruction of Greenwood. Day says the film’s original poetry, choreography and music tie the story together in experiment fashion. “It truly was a collaborative effort where various art forms joined together to relate an important story that had been hidden for many decades,” said Day, adding that the tragedy of Greenwood was ignored by the masses for nearly 100 years.

Donaghy spent three weeks in Greenwood in 2021, researching and interviewing survivors for the project. “I was overwhelmed with the sense of the area as both consecrated ground and an active crime scene,” he said. “While violent acts I had read and heard about flooded my mind, I was also struck by another kind of violence: the violence of erasure.”

Donaghy’s resulting 16-page poem, broken into three parts—before, during and after the massacre—provides the narrative arc for the film.

Calissi’s music accompanies the poems. “I wanted to infuse two instruments—marimba and saxophone—that came to the United States from different areas of the world, and have roots in modern concert music, but with ties to the African American community,” he said.

“It was a great pleasure to see this work come to life after many weeks and months of work where each one of us contributed in our own way,” Calissi said of the co-collaborators. “(This process) spoke to our individual strengths but also our wanting to highlight the injustices that occurred over a century ago.”

Bright-Holland said the production reflected her “core commitment to multi-sensory forms of storytelling …. There can be no equity or social justice in respect to such historical trauma without acknowledgement and restoration of its events to the living memory of America.”

The production features other members of the Eastern community, including English Professor Reggie Flood, public relations officer Dwight Bachman, LaMar Coleman, vice president for equity and diversity, as well as several student performers.

Written by Ed Osborn and Michael Rouleau