“Art is an attempt to capture the truths of the world as you see it in a medium you can share with others. It is about lending your voice, your perspective to local, national, and global conversations.” –Dan Rather, What Unites Us
Sam Houston State University recently held their third annual Common Reader Film Festival. This year’s book and theme was New York Times Best Seller “What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism” by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner.
Rather, faculty, filmmakers and viewers gathered at OlsonAuditorium in Academic Building IV to watch student-made films inspired by thethemes of Rather’s book. The festival also featured the premiere of “The Drone”by Wojciech Lorenc— a promotional film which features an interdepartmentaleffort to showcase the opportunities at SHSU.
“What Unites Us” is a book about patriotism. It is a collectionof reflections about the world we live in, what our core ideas have been andshould be and what it means to be an American.
“I think it resonates because so many people aretrying to divide us,” Rather said. “We have our differences and our problems,but these are things that held our community together.”
Rather attended various events that showcased studentwork and was surprised by the impact his book made.
“I’m very appreciative and have great gratitude forthe university for doing this,” Rather said. “It’s a humbling experience.”
The filmwinners were chosen by a team of film experts and Rather chose from the topthree.Unlike past years, the winning filmmakers were awarded prizes presented byRather himself.
Best Picture went to “The Other Side of the Door” byMichael Foster and LeeAn Muns. It is about a widowed father’s struggle to raisehis daughter after societal conventions collapse.
“People’s Duty” by Rodrigo Torres was the winning filmwhich featured John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech dubbed over footage ofsignificant events in American history.
The inspiration for this film came from a section ofthe book where Rather discusses the struggles of his childhood. He writes abouta less fortunate family who lived down the street. Rather’s mother helped thefamily with clothing and food. As a young boy, Rather did not understand whyand his mother told him, “They understand us.”
“It triggered the idea: what if we had a family thatwas the reverse and the family doesn’t realize they are being helped,” Fostersaid. “Then, we set it in a post-apocalyptic setting.”
Muns believes the key message is to keep going and tokeep helping.
“It’s about holding steady,” Muns said. “[Rather] istalking about in the face of adversity you need to hold steady.”
The runner-up film was “Dream Big at Sam Houston” byJared Doster, which featured a dream sequence where dancing takes center stage.
Director of First Year Experience Kay Angrove was oneof the head organizers for the event. She explained how the Common Reader ischosen.
“Every year a team of faculty, staff and students goover 100 book nominations to choose a common reader,” Angrove said. “It ischosen because it will engage students in complex issues that affect theirlives. It’s amazing to see when you engage students how talented they can be.”
Students can still pick up free copies of “What UnitesUs: Reflections on Patriotism” at the First Year Experience office in AcademicBuilding IV, suite 200.