Beyond the Screen: A Conversation on ‘The Neutral Ground’
Join the Virginia Film Festival for a virtual 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, Charlottesville’s Youth Opportunity Coordinator focused on Black Male Achievement.
This event is part of the Virginia Film Festival’s Beyond the Screen: A Virtual Conversation Series. All conversations in the series are free, open to the public, livestreamed on Zoom, and archived on the VAFF’s YouTube channel. Pre-registration is required to attend the livestreamed Zoom conversations. All event registrants will receive a direct link to stream The Neutral Ground, available to watch through August 29, 2021. The Neutral Ground broadcast on POV on July 5, 2021.
About the Film:
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?”
About the Participants:
CJ HUNT: DIRECTOR/SUBJECT, is a comedian and filmmaker living in NYC. He is currently a field producer on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. He has also served as a staff writer for A&E’s Black and White, and a field producer for BET’s The Rundown with Robin Thede. Before working in late night, CJ spent nine years living in New Orleans where – in 2015 – he began filming what he thought would be a quick and easy confederate monument removal. CJ is an alumnus of Firelight Media’s Doc Lab and New Orleans Film Festival’s Emerging Voices program. He is also a 2020 New America Fellow and a regular host of The Moth. A graduate from Brown University’s Africana Studies department, CJ is endlessly fascinated by race and comedy’s ability to say what we can’t.
DANIEL FAIRLEY II: MODERATOR, serves as the Youth Opportunity Coordinator focused on Black Male Achievement for the City of Charlottesville, Virginia. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Richmond in 2013. In January 2014, Daniel began interning in the Operations Department of The White House during the Obama Administration. While there, he coordinated bi-weekly accessibility and inclusivity meetings with stakeholders throughout The White House. Afterward, he attended the University of Vermont to earn a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs administration. In December 2017, Daniel accepted his current position to work with Black youth and create targeted programs to support their achievement. Daniel also serves as the President of the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia. He is a board member for Loaves & Fishes food pantry and is a steering committee member for the University of Virginia Equity Center.
The Virginia Film Festival’s 2021 Beyond the Screen: A Virtual Conversation Series is presented by The Jefferson Trust.
This event is a collaboration with POV, the award-winning independent non-fiction film series on PBS www.pbs.org/pov.
The Virginia Film Festival is a program of the University of Virginia and the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.
For more information on past and upcoming virtual conversations, visit virginiafilmfestival.org/year-round-events.
Monday, August 16