“Rise and Shine:” A Student Documentary Experience in Ghana

By Maddie Horvath, Senior Communication Major

This April, Villanova’s student documentary class, led by Executive Producer Hezekiah Lewis, will introduce their film, “Rise and Shine,” to the Villanova community, showcasing a year’s worth of research and their passion for storytelling.

This year, the class explored Ghana’s educational systems; the crew spent two weeks in Cape Coast, Ghana this past fall, meeting with students and staff at the Heritage Academy and getting to know their stories. Lewis expresses gratitude for the talent and respect of the Villanova students in Ghana. “They didn’t go to Ghana to teach or to problem-solve,” he says. “They went to learn.” Lewis has always felt a connection with Ghana. His inspiration to pursue this story came from his previous film experience in Ghana and the relationships he has formed there.  “These kids have no electricity, no water, no computers, but they have a passion for learning,” he says about the students of Heritage Academy.

The Villanova students hoped to compare U.S. and Ghanaian educational systems. In order to do so, the students took their cameras to Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia. When I asked Lewis how he chose which school to parallel with Heritage Academy, he explained, “Linda Wayman [Principal] at Strawberry Mansion had a passion to change Philadelphia schools and made the decision easier.” The group attended a rally in Philadelphia with one student from Strawberry Mansion this year. It was a moment that Lewis regards as one of his favorites, explaining that watching the student fight for his education affirmed his commitment to the film and it’s story.

Looking at the act structure board in the studio, it is easy to see the hard work these students have put into producing their documentary. Today, the students have completed the majority of filming and now concentrate on finding historical contexts and educational parallels between the two schools and narrowing their focus. Lewis noted that a challenge the group has faced through their editing process is excluding great content in order to craft the story they envisioned.

The students hope to debut their film, “Rise and Shine,” on April 25at the Ritz Theatre in Philadelphia.

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