WTAMU to Premiere 'Through the Eyes of Africa' Documentary
It’s a moving story that happened thousands of miles from campus, but one that was created by and about students at West Texas A&M University.
And that story, captured in the documentary “Through the Eyes of Africa,” will premiere at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16 at Mary Moody Northen Recital Hall on campus. The 15-minute feature shares the experiences of 13 WTAMU freshmen as they traveled to Lundazi, Zambia, in March 2009 as Readership WT Ambassadors.
“It’s a remarkable story about how 13 students from West Texas A&M University traveled to Africa to change the world,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, associate provost for academic affairs and director of Readership WT, said. “It shows the emotion and the excitement of what happened there, and the impact the trip had on our students. We are so grateful that we had three students from the broadcasting program along to capture all of that for us.”
The Nov. 16 event will include the showing of the documentary with emcees and WTAMU graduates Andy Justus of KAMR News Channel 4 and Lisa Schmidt-Johnson of KVII Pro News 7. A discussion with the Readership WT Ambassadors and the three documentarians will follow in an Actors Studio type setting with Lowery-Hart as moderator. The evening will conclude with dessert in the atrium, and the Readership WT Ambassadors and documentarians will be available to visit and answer questions.
The trip was part of the Readership WT experience. Readership WT began in 2005 with a selected common reader distributed to every incoming freshman as well as WTAMU faculty and staff. The program is designed to instill a love of reading and learning while easing the student’s transition to college. In 2007 a travel abroad component was added to the program through an essay contest. Each year freshmen are encouraged to write an essay about the Readership WT book selection, and winners take an all-expense paid trip to an area related to the common reader. The 2008 book, What is the What, told the story of Valentino Deng, one of the lost boys of Sudan. Although the essay winners couldn’t travel to Sudan for safety reasons, they did go to Africa.
And the joy, laughter and tears experienced there by the 13 WTAMU students were captured by three WTAMU broadcasting students: Niki Brown, a senior broadcasting major from Canyon, Andrew Brown, a May 2009 graduate from Sunray, and Johnny Story, a May 2009 graduate from Pampa. The three documentarians lugged more than 60 pounds of camera equipment and tripods thousands of miles to shoot more than 40 hours of tape to record the trip.
“We’d worked on the documentary “Leap of Faith” so we knew what to do and what not to do,” Niki Brown said. “We found that shooting in Africa was more difficult though—the conditions, the time—and we were emotionally involved.”
The threesome worked hard to catalog and number each tape every day, and the cataloging system served as an organizational tool that helped them to locate specific shots when the editing process began. It took them two months to get through the 40 hours of video and another month of tweaking to get the finished documentary. The final 15-minute version is a moving piece that highlights the work done by the Readership WT Ambassadors in Africa. It captures the absolute joy and endless laughter of various village children as they interact with the WTAMU students. Glimpses of the beautiful, rugged African terrain provide the perfect backdrop as the children play games, sing, dance and learn with the WTAMU students. Excerpts of comments by some of the Readership WT Ambassadors complement the documentary with emotional testimony of what the trip meant to them and the impact it has had on their lives.
“I came away from the trip feeling blessed,” Andrew Brown said. “The experience has made me feel more accountable, and I think everyone felt that.”
The documentary will become part of the Readership WT Ambassadors community presentations, but the Nov. 10 showing will be the first public viewing of this moving story about students by students. It is free and open to the public. For more information, call Lowery-Hart at 806-651-2931 or visit wtamu.edu/readership to watch the documentary trailer and learn more about the Readership WT program.