“Graceland Girls” takes its audience on a journey, wins multiple awards

“Graceland Girls” takes its audience on a journey, wins multiple awards

By Natasha Chang, News Correspondent 

Photo Courtesy/Jordan Salvatoriello

The bare broken walls, dirty wooden desks, worn out books and determined students from Graceland High School have high hopes. It is simple, because to educate is to defy the odds. These high school girls are the hope for a better future in Kenya.

The story is just what filmmaker and Emerson College alumna Jordan Salvatoriello sought out to share. She combines her journalism skills and love for social change in her documentary, “Graceland Girls,” a film that explores female empowerment in education and self-expression as a tool to combat Kenya’s poverty- stricken people.

The documentary takes its audience on a journey with these Graceland High School girls through their lives, showing their personal struggles to find a better future through education. It features girls who are fighting to change their fate.

Salvatoriello takes an interesting spin on the making of her 28-minute documentary, taken by the filmmaker Salvatoriello and photographs that were taken by the girls.

“They have a voice, a vehicle to share it so that it’s not me,” Salvatoriello said. “They get to tell their own story, we talk about them and we use them as a tool of education.”

Not only is this documentary spreading the world on how educating girls is one solution to combat poverty, it also has an underlying message, to show audiences the true value of artistic expression. It is important to give people the opportunity for artistic expression. With so many of these young girls not being given the opportunity to express through any form of artistic medium, Salvatoriello said, “The girls really blossomed when they were set free with these cameras and it’s a beautiful thing.”

Salvatoriello spent time with the girls in Kenya and built friendships that she hopes audiences will be able to see in the documentary.

“I have never been more awake in my life when I think about what I could do to help,” she said. “It made me more determined to continue doing what I’m doing.”

With so many global problems that deserve to be shared and be advocated for, Salvatoriello found that this issue specifically spoke out to her more.

“I say, being a woman, you feel an immediate kinship with other women who struggle with inequality,” she said. “It seemed so simple and obvious a solution to just educate women. It is proven and undeniable that it will make immediate lasting impacts on poverty.”

Salvatoriello was honored in 2012 at the Chicago International Social Change Film Festival and awarded “Best Director” at the Women’s Independent Film Festival among other prestigious awards. “Graceland Girls” was most recently accepted into the Boston International Film Festival. The film will be screening on April 20, at AMC Loews Boston Common theaters.

The Editors Gold Circle Award was one that Salvatoriello said she will not be forgetting anytime soon as it was an honor to receive.

“When they played my trailer in front of this ballroom full of major Hollywood players, and saw the faces of the girls at Graceland on the screen, I got emotional,” she said.

Salvatoriello also produced an upcoming feature documentary, “Three Days To See.” It is a coming of age story following the life of Michelle Smith and her journey from the Perkins School for the Blind and into the sighted world.  “It’s really about finding beauty and finding beauty in the face of darkness,” Salvatoreillo said. “Reminding us about what’s important in life, not to take anything for granted.”

“There are a lot of documentaries that are dark and say what’s wrong with the world,” Salvatoreillo said. “I wanted to focus on a school that was doing it right. It is a hopeful story.”

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