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Meadows Film Professor Stirs Conversation, Provides Educational Opportunities

Lisa Kaselak’s Tomlinson Hill wins Silver Heart award at DIFF, provides work experience for students

Lisa Kaselak, assistant professor in the Division of Film and Media Arts, recently premiered her documentary film Tomlinson Hill at the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF), where she won a Silver Heart award for her story about a former Texas slave plantation located outside the small town of Marlin, Texas.

Told through the eyes of two descendants, one white, Chris Tomlinson, and one black, Loreane Tomlinson, the film is the story of direct descendants struggling to unify their crumbling community in the face of 150 years of class separation.

The film was produced by Kaselak’s company, Fosforo Films. During its four-year production, the film crew included professionals from all over Texas as well as many SMU Meadows film students. Katie Dziminski, who did her practicum at SMU’s Norwick Center for Digital Services prior to volunteering on Tomlinson Hill, researched archival photographs for use in the documentary. “Lisa had an idea of the kinds of images she wanted to use and in some cases had exact images in mind,” says Dziminski. “The major constraint we were working with was an extremely limited budget for images. I researched and located archival photographs that could represent the message she wanted to convey, while ensuring that they were in the public domain and either free - often through the Library of Congress - or at a low cost.”

It was the first time Dziminski worked on a film. “It allowed me to explore a field in which I could also use the skills that are essential to my daily work.”

In addition to creating educational opportunities for SMU students, Tomlinson Hill has sparked an interest from the media. Kaselak and Chris Tomlinson have shared the story in interviews with CBS affiliate KTVT-TV in Dallas, the Dallas Film Society, and Kaselak says Marlin is a metaphor for any community or region still struggling with issues of division because of deep, cultural traditions. “One of the most rewarding aspects of creating Tomlinson Hill was the fact that Marlin’s residents were willing to take part in the conversation about the culture in their community,” she says. At the DIFF, white and black family members of Chris and Loreane Tomlinson sat together - a symbol of healing.

In addition to winning the DIFF Silver Heart award, which recognizes “an individual or film for their dedication to fighting injustices and/or creating social change for the improvement of humanity” and carries a $10,000 prize, Tomlinson Hill will also be shown at the Black International Cinema Festival in Berlin in May 2013 and will air on all South Carolina PBS stations on June 13, 2013 and on Austin’s KLRU PBS on June 19, 2013.

Chris Tomlinson’s book of the same name dives into the deep history of Texas slavery from his personal perspective and will be available in February 2014.

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