Documentary Highlighting Conversation on Racism Debuts at Paramount Theater

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"I'm not Racist...Am I?" played at the Paramount on Friday "I'm not Racist...Am I?" played at the Paramount on Friday
A scene from the documentary A scene from the documentary

A new documentary is showcasing a topic that not many people want to talk about.

Filmmakers are debuting a year-long discussion about racism among teens, entitled "I'm Not Racist...Am I?", and they found some surprising results.

Twelve teenagers, with what seems to be nothing in common except being from New York City, were prompted to have a year-long discussion about a topic that is easily avoided - racism.

On Friday, February 9, the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville put that conversation on the big screen. A documentary dedicated to a discussion about racism found that many people in the United States don't really know what racism is.

These high school students agreed to participate in workshops that took place once a month over the course of the school year in which they talked about race, racism, stereotypes, and their own upbringings.

“They were afraid of being racist, because most people don't want to be,” says Catherine Wigginton Greene, who directed the movie. “But what we really found through the making of the film and through our screenings is that racism is actually more scary than being called a racist, and we hope people come away from this with that feeling."

The idea for this film came from a New York Caucasian man in his 50s who spent most of his life thinking of himself as progressive - until he attended a powerful workshop that opened his eyes to racism.

“He could not believe that he had made it all the way through half of his life and had never really thought about racism on a structural, institutionalized level,” says Greene.

People packed inside the Paramount Theater for the Friday night screening in Charlottesville. And even with everything that happened in August, organizers say this screening date was the plan all along - even before the rallies took place.

“Nothing changed as a result of what was happening over the summer,” says Elizabeth Shillue, the screening organizer. “I think what happened is that it made people more interested and more hungry for the opportunity to see this film."

The plan was originally to have 10 screenings and discussions in the area, but that’s now doubled since the events of August 12.

“This is a sign that our community is interested and ready to talk about these things,” says Shillue.

On Saturday, the filmmakers will train dozens of people in Charlottesville to host workshops, similar to the one in the film, and they'll meet back with them in March to hear their findings.