Backpack Documentary Student Reaffirms Value of Craft

Erin Finicane has proven a long-standing tenet of documentary: The craft is an effective tool for social change.

Erin is a second year graduate student at American University pursuing an MFA in Film and Electronic Media. She hopes to use documentary and related media as a tool for education, engaging audiences in the stories behind the issues, and encouraging young minds to become writers of their own cultural narratives.

Erin took my Backpack Documentary class in Spring 2011, following the story of a diverse community in The Norwood, an affordable housing unit located in Logan Circle. Claiming to be victims of discrimination, poor living conditions, and an abusive management company that aimed to convert to condo, Norwood residents pulled together to buy their apartment building and fight for their right to fair and affordable housing.

And Erin Finicane documented that fight. She said recently that my Backpack Documentary class provided her “the skills and opportunity to produce the trailer” for her upcoming feature film on the Norwood, “Brunching with Bedbugs.”

The residents of The Norwood recently purchased the building. They attribute their success in pursuing financing from the city in part to the fact that they were able to include Erin’s trailer in their application package. They chose a new management company and are now preparing for renovations. The residents are hosting an October block party to celebrate their success and are inviting the mayor.

Erin continues to follow the story and is partnering with organizations around the city to launch a DC-wide campaign on affordable housing preservation.

In the photo above, Erin works in the field.

(Photo courtesy Erin Finicane.)