Race Reels Film Series
For six years now, Race Reels has been leading the conversation in Brookline about race, racism and marginalization in America. Through its annual documentary film and speaker series, Race Reels provides a safe space for discussions about race in our society and allows staff and students to learn from each other and share their own stories. Race Reels helps to create connection, community, and self-awareness.
Former BHS English teacher Abby Erdmann originally thought of the idea for Race Reels when she was awarded the Olmsted Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching from Williams College in 2011. Having taught about racism for years as part of her work in BHS’s School Within a School, Abby decided to pursue a larger initiative to prompt real discussions around racism - discussions, she believed , were not happening on a regular basis. Abby believed that a common experience, such as a film, would provide a starting point to hold deeper conversations about race. Abby teamed up with Krissie Jankowski, a video and documentary film teacher at BHS; Lynne Cohen, a since-retired Librarian, who also taught a course about films; and Dr. Christopher Vick, the former head of the African American and Latino Scholars Program (AALSP).
Race Reels launched in 2011 with its first film, Hoodwinked, which was created in part by BHS graduate and current Broadway actor Nik Walker. Nik and Dylan Lazerow, another Hoodwinked co-creator, not only attended Race Reels’ first showing but also stayed afterwards to answer questions about their film. Since then, the Race Reels has invited people whose lives intersect with the film to talk with the audience afterward, such as having interracial couples share about their experiences after showed The Loving Story.
Race Reels has used its platform to discuss a broad spectrum of race issues in today’s world. The program has shown films about transracial adoption, interracial marriage, biracial identity, the deportation of Cambodian refugees brought to the U.S., the teaching of Hispanic/Latino studies to enhance high school learning despite government objections, growing up in a Navajo Reservation, rates of incarceration for black individuals, the role of race in conjunction with U.S. privatized prisons, and many other current issues.
When Abby Erdmann’s original grant expired, Race Reels found support from the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) and the BHS Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) which has sustained it over the last several years. Today, the team of Lindsay Davis, Malcolm Cawthorne, Mary Burchenal, Kara Lopez, and Thato Mwosa lead, organize, and prepare for the events, continuing to promote Abby’s vision.
Films are shown at 5:45 p.m. in the MLK Room at BHS. This year’s films cover topics including: The conflict at Standing Rock, the impact of incarceration within America’s most incarcerated zip code, Math Circles to build cross-cultural understanding and excellence, the daily life of a Weston METCO student, and attacks and discrimination against Sikhs in a post 9/11 world, among others. The current film and discussion schedule can be found here. In addition to being open to the public, all PSB staff, students, and families are invited to attend.