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Showcasing social justice through film: Hearts and Minds series welcomes dialogue

By Lauren Docktor
On April 18, 2012

  • Due to the sensitive nature of the event, Friday night’s screening of “Erasing Hate” was highly secured with law enforcement. BETH FIJAL/THE VILLANOVAN
  • Due to the sensitive nature of the event, Friday night’s screening of “Erasing Hate” was highly secured with law enforcement. BETH FIJAL/THE VILLANOVAN


From April 13 to 14, The Hearts & Minds Film Festival, sponsored by the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society (WFI), celebrated social justice in the form of film.

The international and renowned festival, now in its seventh year, was held in conjunction with the presentation of 5 CMM Fellow Awards. 

The film festival began with a screening of "Erasing Hate," a poignant illustration of Bryon Widner's journey out of his former life as a white supremacist. The emotional struggle and the physical removal process of his discriminatory tattoos are chronicled in a moving and thought-provoking manner.

"It was eye-opening to see how much racism there still is the U.S., and how a person can change for the best," said junior Morgan Evans. 

The documentary was followed by a question and answer session with the producer/director and the five CMM fellows. It provided further insight into the difficulties of the painful laser processes and Widner's withdrawal from the skinheads, the white power subculture to which he had belonged.  Widner underwent the agonizing treatment at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and, in over a year and a half,  endured 25 surgeries to remove the ink  that connected him to his past.

The documentary simultaneously sheds light into the incredibly dark and intense lifestyle of white supremacists while offering hope through his redemptive story.

The festival continued on Saturday with a screening of thirteen additional films all focused on social justice, including the University's own, "No Greater Pain." A product of the popular social justice documentary class, the film focuses on mothers' pain regarding the loss of their children to violence. Other films examined topics from 9/11 widows and their personal struggles in coping with the unimaginable loss ,to the relocation of Tibetan nomads, to the Washington, D.C. juvenile justice system.

The festival and its messages of social justice align strongly with University ideals and the overall mission of the college. Thus, the WFI and the communication department hope to host the festival annually. 

"It was a remarkable and powerful night at Villanova University," said Assistant Vice President for Multicultural Affairs Terry Nance. "It was really both a redemption story and a hero's joruney. We need to know that such communities and perspectives exist and that we all must remain vigilant in our anti-discrimination and inclusion work."

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