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A Reckoning in Boston | Independent Lens

Carl Chandler listens in a classroom
Lolita Parker, Jr.
Independent Lens
Carl Chandler listening in class

Mon., Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. on WKAR-HD 23.1 & STREAMING | A white filmmaker collaborates with Clemente Course students of color to reckon racial history.

What happens when you discover that your assumptions are flawed? A white filmmaker starts his academic inquiry by documenting low-income, adult students of color at the Clemente Course in Boston. After time, he comes to terms with his own complicity in racism. Alongside students, a unique filmmaking collaboration forms to explore the area's history of racism and gentrification.

Throughout the United States, the Clemente Course in the Humanities has given low-income adults—many of whom have experienced homelessness, transitioned out of incarceration, or faced financial barriers to a college education—a free opportunity to explore the great works of literature, art history, moral philosophy, and American history.

In 2014, Rutenbeck, a white suburban filmmaker, came to Dorchester, Massachusetts, to document Clemente students and their engagement with the course. As he spent time outside the classroom with two students, Kafi Dixon and Carl Chandler, James began to question his ability to mediate their stories. Dixon and Chandler urged the filmmaker to turn the camera around and make himself as vulnerable as they have for him. In the process he was forced to reckon with the systemic racism that exists in communities in Boston and across the U.S., and his place within that system.

Independent Lens is America’s home for independent documentary film, airing Monday nights on PBS member stations and available to stream on the PBS Video App.

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