2012 John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Award Winners and Their Projects; 2013 Award Guidelines

A prison where the Gestapo kept Jewish citizens of Frankfurt during the war; David Mayer’s grandfather was taken to this prison or one very similar that has since been destroyed. Photograph by David Mayer.

Established in 1989 by the Center for Documentary Studies, the John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Awards are named for the noted scholar John Hope Franklin, the late professor emeritus of history at Duke University, in recognition of his lifetime accomplishments and his dedication to students and teaching. CDS makes these awards to undergraduates attending North Carolina’s Triangle-area universities to help them conduct intensive summer-long documentary fieldwork projects.

Applications for the 2013 awards will be accepted during the month of February 2013, with a deadline of March 1, 2013: see guidelines.

Recipients of the 2012 John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Awards and their projects:

Alice Soo-Hyon Kim (Duke University)
Photography and audio: South Korea
Alice Kim is making a documentary that “maps the immigrant identity” through black-and-white 35 mm photographs and audio recordings of her grandmother, Kyung Jo Seong, as she returned to South Korea for the first time in over a decade, perhaps for her last visit, “to care for and pay her respects to the graves of her parents, to get her family affairs in order, and to see her eldest daughter, the great-grandchildren she has never met, and childhood friends.” Alice traveled with her grandmother to document “this self-reflection at the near end of such a long and eventful life.” As Alice says, “I am the last grandchild that Mrs. Seong raised. . . . There is still so much I do not know about my grandmother, her life before coming to America, and our family history. This project will be as much a self-discovery for my grandmother as it will be for me.”

David Mayer (Duke University)
Video: Frankfurt, Germany
David Mayer will be producing a documentary video that offers an intimate and personal retelling of his grandfather’s Holocaust story as a parallel to his own comfortable suburban upbringing. Paul Mayer was twenty years old and living in Frankfurt, Germany, when he started to keep a journal on January 1, 1945. His Jewish father had died in Auschwitz; his sister had died when the Nazis refused to give her medical treatment. David visited and filmed Paul Mayer’s childhood home in Frankfurt, the train station where he left for the camp, concentration camps in the Hartz Mountains, as well as old friends and other places mentioned in his grandfather’s journal. “This documentary will be about what it means to try to understand a man whom I never met using only what he left behind,” he says.

Elyse Pate (UNC-Chapel Hill)
Photography and audio: Brunswick, Georgia
Elyse Pate collected oral histories, along with photographs and recipes, to create a documentary narrative essay that reflects on the nearly “sacred” importance of low country boils—both a dish and an event—in the Brunswick area of coastal Georgia. Brunswick is one of the two largest port cities in Georgia (Savannah is the other), and as such, seafood plays a major role in the economy and lifestyle. “Like all traditions, it is likely that low country boils have changed and are constantly changing to fit the times. Without documentation, the changes in tradition, while not necessarily negative, often mean the loss of a specific variation. My grandmother, for example, can no longer tell her stories. They have never been recorded, a fact that I greatly regret. In collecting these personal narratives, I hope to maintain an open mind, knowing that I will be led in unanticipated directions, and that by documenting the stories of ordinary people these traditions will not be forgotten.”

Click here for additional information about the award winners’ projects.

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