With the South being a wellspring for history and complex stories, the SCAD Savannah Film Festival is presenting a competitive showcase for short films produced by young filmmakers who point their cameras at our unique region.

The Southern Voices showcase consists of six short films that represent a wide range of styles and topics. One such film is “Black Dispatch,” a gripping Civil War era drama about a slave who steals military secrets in exchange for her freedom. Its director, Shea Sizemore, is a filmmaker based out of Charlotte, North Carolina who has several acclaimed short films already under his belt. Like many of his other films, Sizemore drew upon his interest in history and his experiences growing up in the southwestern tip of Virginia.

 

Early in his film career, Sizemore was inspired by his history teacher to make a Civil War movie. “I found out that he was a reenactor,” said Sizemore. “This was around the time I was really trying to take off with short films and deciding I wanted to be a film maker and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a really great way to get production value with no money because reenactors are just excited to do this kind of stuff.”

“For ‘Black Dispatched’ we wanted to see how far we could go,” Sizemore added.

Although Sizemore shot many of his films in Eastern Europe (his wife is from Macedonia), Sizemore is mostly a Southern filmmaker.

“I don’t think I consciously put the hat on,” explained Sizemore. “I think I’m just from this area. I’m from Virginia, but born in Florida, so that whole swath of the east coast is where I grew up. But to be a [southern filmmaker] I’ve always been one, I’ve always been here. I don’t think it is conscious as much as where you grew up and the stories you are attracted to.”

The story that attracted Sizemore to write and direct “Black Dispatch” was that of the runaway slaves that produced the majority of intel for the North during the Civil War. “That ties into being a Southern filmmaker is this whole area is rich with Civil War history and it’s still alive today in a lot of ways.”

Another film being showcased during Southern Voices should draw the interest of Savannah audiences. “The Vision of Ulysses Davis” is directed by Stephen Gray and Alexia Oldini. It is a documentary that looks at the life and work of famed Savannah woodcarver Ulysses Davis. “What we were trying to do with the film was make a piece that would be part of the Davis exhibit at the Beach Institute in Savannah where the majority of his work is currently housed,” said Gray.

Gray and Oldini were inspired to make the film when they visited Savannah from New York. Gray’s mother was a volunteer at the Beach Institute which is home to most of Davis’s art.

“When visiting the institute, we thought the work was so spectacular we were driven to learn more about it,” said Gray. “In doing so, we then decided that it would be great if there was a companion film that could help contextualize the work for people coming to see the exhibit.”

For Gray and Oldini, who have directed several other projects, the goal of the documentary was to focus on Davis’s work first, without historical or cultural context, so that viewers could experience the art without preconceived notions. “We’re trying to see Davis as this spectacularly gifted woodcarver with an unbelievably imaginative vision who was able to wield these tools—many which he personally created—to construct a whole new way of seeing,” Gray explained.

Between the six films at the Southern Voices showcase, audiences can expect to experience many intriguing facets of the South.