Conference features screenings of two films about police ethics

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Free public screenings of a film by a Penn State faculty member and an Academy Award-qualified short film will be part of the Rock Ethics Institute’s Ethics of Policing Conference at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at Foster Auditorium of Paterno Library on Penn State's University Park campus.

“Junior,” directed by Pearl Gluck, an assistant professor in the Department of Film-Video and Media studies, stars Elle Jae Stewart as a mother struggling with a new normal after her son is shot and killed by a police officer. Stewart, who earned her master of fine arts degree at Penn State, initially crafted “Junior” as a one-woman play.

The film version runs 28 minutes and was shot in one take by Emmy Award-winner Mark Stitzer, a videographer for WPSU who earned his film-video degree from the University in 2002. Overall, the production of the film was a joint effort between professional filmmakers, State College residents and Penn State film-video students.

Gluck said the approach was ideal to tell a story of grief, loss and injustice.

“With one long shot, Elle Jae constantly in the frame, no cuts, no pauses, there is no opportunity to look away. We must face what this mother is telling us about her loss, and we must do something,” said Gluck, who first saw Stewart in the role on stage. “From the moment Ms. Stewart walked on stage in the black-box theater to the moment the show was over, I was transfixed. I was moved by how she created, from many interviews with mothers of the murdered, one story that explores deeply the voice of one mother as she prepares for the funeral of her son.”

“Night Call,” an award-winning film about a black female cop (Marlyne Barrett, “Chicago Med”) who is called to a disturbance during a routine patrol and must make a life-altering decision, will be screened as well. The film has been playing at film festivals worldwide and is qualified to be considered for an Academy Award for Short Film.

Director Amanda Renee Knox said the community conversation — an overarching goal of the Ethics of Policing Conference — is exactly why she directed her short film. 

“As a filmmaker we have a very large platform to create change,” Knox said. “Police violence is a growing concern to people all over the world. My hope in making ‘Night Call’ and screening it on campuses is to start a conversation about police violence and shine a light on the gray areas in order to have informed discussions.”

Knox also has a Penn State connection. Her manager, Mike Marcus, head of management for Echo Lake Entertainment, is an alumnus of the University. He serves as a member of the advancement council for the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and as a member of the advisory board for the Penn State Hollywood Program. He also was the commencement speaker for the Bellisario College in May.

Stewart and Knox will attend the conference and screening. They will join Gluck and theatre professor Aquila Kikora Franklin for a panel discussion after the screenings. Stewart and Knox will also participate in workshops and visit classes about acting, directing and advanced producing while on campus.

The Ethics of Policing Conference features a variety of events Sept. 20-22. The film screenings were made possible with support from the Bellisario College’s Department of Film-Video and Media Studies, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the School of Theatre.

Last Updated September 14, 2018