Films making a difference

By Jay Logan Rogers

Hank Liese, associate professor of social work, is devoted to the idea that great filmmaking can change the world.

Liese taught his students to produce short documentaries for nonprofit organizations to help promote social causes.

He said he got the idea when he became a board member of the Center for Documentary Arts.

“I began to sense the power of documentary work to advance social change,” he said.

He then devoted his yearlong service-learning course-Documentary, Human Rights and Social Justice (Honors 3214)-to teaching students to make use of that power.

Liese was given the freedom to pursue this goal when he was named the 2005-2006 Bennion Center public service professor.

“The public service professor award has been awarded for about 15 years. It’s a unique opportunity for faculty to do something that’s novel, unique and a little bit cutting edge,” said Marshall Welch, director of the Bennion Center.

With guidance from Liese, students created documentary films about the following issues: Sudanese refugees in Utah, rape and sexual assault on college campuses, gay-straight alliance clubs in local high schools and the waiting list for disability services in Utah.

Students also created a radio documentary about the problem of homelessness in Salt Lake City.

All of these documentaries were screened before an audience at the College of Social Work on April 21.

Liese said the Disability Law Center used the student film about the waiting list as part of its press kit, which was sent to state legislators.

“(The students) became an integral part of what we were trying to do. We will be forever grateful,” said Andrew Riggle of the Disability Law Center, who attended the screening.

Students said they were impressed with their peers’ documentary works.

“Some of them were surprising and motivating. They bring awareness to some important issues,” said Christine Johnson, a junior in chemistry.

“I enjoyed it. I was very impressed with the student efforts,” said Preston Hughes, an undeclared freshman.

Maegan Burr

Hank Liese presented student documentary projects on Thursday at the Social Work Building. Liese is on the board of directors for the Center for Documentary Arts and works on ways to use documentaries as a means to communicate social issues he studies in social work.