37th Annual VIRGINIA FILM FESTIVAL Oct 30-Nov 3, 2024

37th Annual VIRGINIA FILM FESTIVAL October 30-November 3, 2024

News & Press

VAFF Beyond the Screen: A Conversation on ‘The Neutral Ground’ with Director CJ Hunt

by Erica Barnes on August 12, 2021

The Virginia Film Festival will continue it’s Beyond the Screen: A Virtual Conversation Series with a discussion around director CJ Hunt’s acclaimed new documentary The Neutral Ground. The livestreamed discussion will take place on Monday, August 16 and will feature Hunt in a conversation with moderator Daniel Fairley II.

The Neutral Ground documents the City of New Orleans’ fight over monuments and America’s troubled romance with the Lost Cause. In 2015, Hunt began filming the New Orleans City Council’s vote to remove four confederate monuments. When that removal was halted by death threats, the original idea for a 5-10 minute comedy short turned into an exploration of why a losing army from 1865 still holds so much power in America.

The middle school teacher-turned Public Defender’s Office staffer-turned comedian, had a clear vision in mind when he began the project. “In my mind,” Hunt said, “the formula was simple. I would film people saying wacky things at the meetings, interview activists making logical points about why statues to slave owners is a bad look for a majority Black city, and finally film the removal of the monuments.” He engaged friend Darcy McKinnon, a New Orleans-based documentary filmmaker who would go on to serve as producer for the film, to bring a camera to the meetings, and told her the project should last two weeks.

Six years later, Hunt’s film would focus on a larger and more serious question. “I wanted to know,” he said, “why a losing army from 1865 still holds so much power in America. I believe the film is asking the question that echoes louder today than ever: what does it take to tell the truth about white supremacy in America? An 83-minute documentary? A 9-mimnute cell phone video? If we cannot tell the truth about Robert E. Lee and the cause of the confederacy, how can we ever tell the truth about the young Nazis waving their banner as they march through Charlottesville or storm the U.S. Capitol?”

Hunt will be joined for the conversation by moderator Daniel Fairley II, a social justice advocate and Youth Opportunity Coordinator focused on Black Male Achievement for the City of Charlottesville. Fairley is an alumnus of the Obama White House administration and serves as Chair of the UVA Equity Center Youth Educational Pipeline program and President of the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia.

Pre-registration for Beyond the Screen: A Conversation on The Neutral Ground is required to attend the live discussion and is available at https://virginiafilmfestival.org/year-round/beyond-the-screen-neutral-ground. This event, like all in the Beyond the Screen series, is free and open to the public.

All event registrants will receive a direct link to stream The Neutral Ground, available to watch through August 29, 2021. This event is a collaboration with POV, the award-winning independent non-fiction film series on PBS www.pbs.org/povThe Neutral Ground broadcast on POV on July 5, 2021.

The Virginia Film Festival’s 2021 Beyond the Screen: A Virtual Conversation Series is presented by The Jefferson Trust.