A documentary film made by two Parker students is set to be screened at the All American High School Film Festival in New York City’s Times Square this October.
Plessy v. Ferguson: Tipping the Scale was made by Adam Nussbaum, Class of 2018, and Ben Clark ‘17 for National History Day 2017 and gained attention as it made its way through the local, state, and national competitions.
The film finished ninth in the nation in the group documentary category and was shown at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. during the week of the competition this past June.
It is scheduled to be screened at the AMC Empire Theater in Times Square on Saturday, Oct. 7 as part of the All American High School Film Festival -- an international event that brings talented high school filmmakers from around the world together to screen their creations and network with top industry professionals and each other.
Adam and Ben’s 10-minute documentary explores how the U.S. court systems can be used to generate social change for historically underrepresented groups using test case litigation. One of the first and most widely recognized instances of test case litigation in the United States was Plessy v. Ferguson, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of 1896, which upheld state segregation laws under the doctrine “separate but equal.”
“The biggest thing we wanted to drive home with this documentary is how different our country and our world looks because this judicial process exists,” said Ben, now a freshman at Stanford University. “We were showing how much bigger this case was than is traditionally seen.”
The documentary explores additional cases through history that granted rights to minority groups, including Roe v. Wade, which led to the legalization of abortion in 1973; and Obergefell v. Hodges, which led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015.
It also features interviews with political science experts and civil rights historians, including Dr. Rai Wilson, Upper School history teacher at Parker and former professor at UCSD; former federal judge Nancy Gertner; and Dr. Steven F. Lawson of Rutgers University.
Adam and Ben leaned on these and other experts to not only inform their research but also to widen their perspectives as white men on the topic of minority rights.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to shy away [from this topic] but it’s not the same for us to approach it as it would be for African Americans or members of the LGBTQIA community. We’re missing that personal connection, but it didn’t hinder our research of the topic. We did our best to hear people’s accounts and to listen to them from a historical perspective,” said Adam.
Plessy v. Ferguson: Tipping the Scale will be screened on Oct. 7 at the All American High School Film Festival in Times Square, but you don’t have to fly to New York City to see it! The film can be viewed on YouTube at the following link: https://youtu.be/fMMh1X6U7sc