Baobab Flowers is a documentary that explores education inequality as a global issue in black communities.
Baobab Flowers is a personal documentary that blends poetic and observational footage following the journey of two high school teachers: Storm Foreman (Nyanza Bandele) in Philadelphia, United States, and Priscila Dias in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Director, Gabriela Watson Aurazo, immerses herself in a journey to make the connections between communities of the African Diaspora. Through a female perspective, the documentary intends to address the similarities of black women, the impact of low quality education in the black community and the struggle to achieve equality in education.
Nyanza and Priscila have a fascinating story! They are not only educators, but single mothers, community leaders and they both practice religion of African roots. In the educational sphere, they discuss racial and social inequality with their students, the value of embracing their Afro-descendent identity and they also encourage them to pursue their goals as challenging as they can be.
Despite being in two different countries, Nyanza and Priscila show that black communities face similar issues, and as black women they have bonds that unite them although they have cultural differences. Ultimately, they are examples of how black women are a source of inspiration despite being at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid. This is why it is crucial that their story is told now!
Why is it that underserved Black and Brown communities have such a gap of educational opportunities? How can we make a school that values and reconnects with our African Ancestry? What is the importance of black women as educators in our communities? These are some of the issues explored in Baobab Flowers.
The inspiration behind the name "Baobab Flowers"
The baobab is one of the tallest trees common in some countries in the African continent, and now it remains a symbol related to a Pan-African sentiment. A legend says that the enslaved Africans had to walk around that tree before crossing the Atlantic to forget their names and culture. The teachers are strong like the Baobab tree; they are source of sustenance, spirituality, fuel, and identity for their communities.
Meet the Characters
Priscila is an Afro-Brazilian Historian, mother of two, and a local organizer. Her family migrated from the northeast of Brazil before settling roots in the city of Sao Paulo. She is a History teacher at Amelia Kerr, a public school in one of the highest poverty areas of São Paulo, where most of the students are of African descent. Her main goal is to "decolonize" her students' minds promoting critical thinking of racism and the social conditions that surround them. Her intention is to create a learning environment where students feel proud of their identity.
Storm Foreman, is an African American born and raised in Philadelphia. Nyanza Bandele is the African name she has chosen for herself. A mother of three, Nyanza was an English teacher at Overbrook High School and Edison High School, both challenging schools with a lack of resources where most of the students are Black and Latino. She incorporates black culture in her curriculum to make her students connect with their own history. Now, she is a Social Studies teacher at a Homeschool Collective where her daughters are enrolled. Nyanza is also an activist in NGO Reconstruction, which develops training primarily for black youth and former convicts.
Film director Gabriela Watson Aurazo is a MFA (Master of Fine Arts) candidate at Temple University. This is her second documentary film and its completion will mean the fulfillment of her degree.
Gabriela: “As an Afro-Brazilian, the access to quality education lead me to many important experiences, at the same time most Afro-descendants around the world have their lives limited because they don´t have the same opportunities I did. As a person of the African Diaspora with a multi-cultural background I'm passionate about connecting with other Afro-descendants. I want to contribute to a cross-cultural dialogue that can help communities to support each other. This is the main goal of my film projects. I’m deeply inspired to tell the story of Nyanza and Priscila through Baobab Flowers, as I believe black women have a key role in keeping the values and positive identities in black communities."
Click here to check out Gabriela's past work. Below is the latest project she co-directed, AfroTrip: Brazil, a web-series featuring up and coming artists and activists from the Black social movement from three main cities of Brazil: Sao Paulo, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro.
The need for this film
The lack of access to education in Black and Brown communities is a global problem, one of the results of systemic racism.
Pervasive ethnic and racial disparities in education follow a pattern in which Latino and African Americans underperform academically. The challenges Afro-descendants in both the United States and Brazil experience in education are similar. It is necessary to bring light to these disparities so that we can come up with effective solutions for our communities.
In Brazil, many college age young adults are still in high school. Similarly, in the United States, when all grade levels are combined, black students are nearly three times more likely to be held back than their white peers.
The Impact: Building Community
Our intention is that Baobab Flowers will serve as a catalyst for dialogue and change. Once the documentary is done, we will plan an outreach campaign to screen the film in the communities involved, film festivals, and universities, in order to help to spark the discussion on inequality in education and the importance of black women in our communities. Baobab Flowers will be a source to showcase the results of systemic racism, results of the social politics chosen by Brazil and the United States.
We are proud to have a diverse crew, especially supporting the idea that women of color should be behind the camera. Your donation to this project will not only support just one individual, but a whole community of producers committed to social justice.
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Renata Martins (Assistant Director), Ana Julia Travia (Producer Assistant), Liliane Braga (Consultant), Mark Kaercher (Line Producer)
Hannah Angle (Director of Photography), Tomires Ribeiro (Director of Photography), Renato Candido (Director of Photography)
TIMBALONA (Music), Marco ZX (Graphic Designer), Cleonice Fonseca (Dancer)
Risks and challenges
Completing a medium length documentary is no easy task.
How can you be sure we will complete this film?
It has already received the Green light!
Baobab Flowers is Gabriela's MFA Thesis Project so it has been approved and it is being mentored by a group of established filmmakers, her professors, members of the MFA Committee.
Supported with grants!
Gabriela also received a grant from Temple University that covered part of the production costs, so to supplement our funding we are doing this Kickstarter campaign.
On the strength of the early stages of this project, Gabriela was awarded fellowships and grants including the 2014 Fingerlakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF) Fellowship and a 2015 Flaherty Seminar Fellowship. She also received a scholarship from the Black Women Film Network (BWFN) in Atlanta, GA, in 2014 and she was a recipient of the Deans Grant (2013, 2014) and a Production Grant (2016) from Temple University.
The film is real!
The film is already in production. We shot 50% of the documentary, we need your help to finish the project with the best production value possible.
We have a professional and passionate team!
All of the members of the team have the experience and passion necessary to finish this project. Check out our bios.
We are already building community!
Baobab Flowers is connecting to people. It's vital to remember that the communities related to the teachers of the project Nyanza and Priscila, plus a community of artists and supporters have already formed around it. Your support is making that community grow and we are so grateful for it.
We want to be able to film the most compelling and polished footage. With the production costs covered through this campaign, we will be able to maximize the chances of presenting a film that is engaging both visually and story-wise.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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