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Press Release for Thursday, April 25, 2013

UNF Film Students Create Documentaries About River Life

Contact: Joanna Norris, Associate Director 

Department of Public Relations

(904) 620-2102


MOCA Screens Short Films Celebrating St. Johns River Relationships

            The Museum of Contemporary Arts Jacksonville, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida, will screen “River Lives,” a series of documentary films that celebrate the cultural life of the St. Johns River, at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 4. The event is free and open to the public. Limited seating is available on a first-come basis.

            “River Lives,” created by UNF students in Dr. Jillian Smith’s Documentary Film class, paints a varied portrait of our relationships with the St. Johns River, featuring film shorts of distance swimmers, activists, a permaculture farm, disabled adaptive rowers, shrimpers, artists, the Mayport Ferry deckhand and more.

            “Our goal with documentary film is to have the audience see something differently than they have before or see something they haven't had access to before. In this, we hope to open channels of shared life within the community,” said Smith, an associate professor of English and Film at UNF. “By creating a series of short documentaries on the St Johns River, we hope to capture some of the stories and rhythms it carries, a cultural portrait of its vitality.”

            “River Lives” is part of a larger multimedia project, “Voices from the River: The People of the St. Johns,” which was initiated by the St. Johns Riverkeeper and the UNF Department of History. This collaborative oral history project began in 2010 and continues today. Through oral histories and video, “Voices from the River” captures the stories, memories and personal connections between the people of Northeast Florida and the St. Johns River.

            “By sharing these stories, we hope that it will help to reinforce the importance of the river to our community and inspire and motivate others to engage in efforts to protect the St. Johns River for generations to come,” said Jimmy Orth, executive director of the St. Johns Riverkeeper. 

            Dr. Charles Closmann, UNF Department of History chair, believes the St. Johns River continues to transform and enrich our lives. He says the river is part of us and we are a part of it—our stories are its stories. “Together, these projects facilitate a community dialogue about our relationships to the St. Johns River and the ways in which the river binds us together,” he said. “The communal bonds created by the river transcend generational and socioeconomic boundaries.”

            For more information about the “River Lives” film screening, contact Dr. Jillian Smith, UNF associate professor of English and Film, at (904) 620-1257 or at .

            UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.