Private Screening of “The Graduates” at Vital Voices Global Headquarters Ahead of World Premiere at the Tribeca Festival
During the first week of June, Vital Voices Global Headquarters for Women’s Leadership hosted a private screening of the coming-of-age film “The Graduates,” executive produced by Meena Harris and Chloé Zhao ahead of its world premiere at the Tribeca Festival.
The film chronicles the journey of Genevieve, played by Mina Sundwall, a young woman about to take on her senior year of high school. What should be a time of growth, anticipation and pride is marred with the trauma of losing her boyfriend Tyler to a school shooting one year prior. But she is not alone. As Genevieve struggles to push herself forward, she is pulled back to reality by Tyler’s best friend, Ben, and the school’s basketball coach. As they continue to navigate their own lives, futures, and loss, the three ultimately find hope not just in each other but in the community that surrounds them.
“It is about our collective, uniquely American experience around gun violence,” said Harris. The Graduates is a standout example of just one of many “narrative films and other forms of scripted entertainment that can shift dialogue and create change,” said Harris in a pre-screening speech. Harris executive produced the film through the production company she founded, Phenomenal Media.
In her feature directorial debut, Hannah Logan Peterson said in a post-screening dialogue that included White House Champion of Change and Global Leadership Awards Honoree Jamira Burley and Moms Demand Action Executive Director Angela Ferrell-Zabala, that she wanted to capture the quiet, somber center of a tragedy and the feeling of vulnerability it has left a community still coping with immense loss. During the discussion, moderated by Vital Voices President & CEO Alyse Nelson, Peterson explained, “In a generation, there is a real sense of altruism and hope that is rooted in grief. But turning towards your community, there is so much hope in that.”
What sets “The Graduates” apart from other stories of gun violence, however, is its emphasis on the aftermath of tragedy. “What I like about this film is that it places us all in a position of power to realize how we can be impacted by gun violence,” said Burley, whose brother lost his life to gun violence when she was 15 years old. “We are more than the trauma that happened to us.”
Sundwall also shared her takeaways from being a part of this meaningful project: “Everyone is fighting a tragedy. It can be so lonely and isolating, but you are not alone. There is a support system for you when you’re ready.”
Finally, Ferrell-Zabala left the audience with an inspirational call to action: “There’s little things that we can be doing to get off the sidelines. We have a culture that is guns everywhere; a culture that is shoot first. But there is hope.”
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Written by the Communication Team at Vital Voices