This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Since its release in May, Glen’s Village, a 30-minute documentary film that tackles the issue of childhood trauma, has gained attention locally from teachers, students, mental health specialists, and parents. Now, the film is winning acclaim outside of Philadelphia. In its festival circuit premiere, Glen’s Village received the Best Short Documentary Award at AMFM Fest: Flagstaff on Aug. 30 in Arizona.
“It really resonated,” said Rich Henrich, the festival’s programmer and organizer. Henrich, an Emmy Award-winning director, is a film professor at Santa Fe University of Art Design.
“It was a story that was well told and that needed to be shared because it’s really about life,” Henrich said. “Life is about overcoming the obstacles in front of us. And most of us — what we view as obstacles — pale in comparison to what was going on in Glen’s Village.”
Glen’s Village chronicles the life of Glen Casey, a West Philadelphia native who went from selling crack cocaine on the streets as a teenager to become a student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is now an urban studies major. Glen’s Village was directed and produced by Brooklyn filmmaker Dorian Geiger, also a former Notebook intern, and co-produced by Notebook freelance reporter Paul Jablow.
The Notebook has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support its efforts to distribute the film to local guidance counselors and child advocates as well as enter film festivals. Support the effort by donating to the Indiegogo campaign.
“It was thrilling. I couldn’t believe it,” said Geiger of the film’s Arizona accolades. He attended the Flagstaff premiere of Glen’s Village at AMFM Fest.
“I never thought this film would reach an audience outside Pennsylvania, but not only is Glen’s Village going the distance, it’s winning awards, too. This is only the first festival we’ve entered the film in. … I can’t wait to see what’s going to come next.”
The AMFM Fest panel of judges, including an industry director, cinematographer, film student, and a philosopher, chose Glen’s Village out of the six films that were competing in the Best Short Documentary category.
“It was pretty unanimous,” said Henrich of the decision. “The quality and caliber of the festival and the films was top notch. [Glen’s Village was] competing against films that come from Slamdance, South by Southwest, and one of the top documentary festivals.”
In its first year, the documentary screenings of AMFM Fest: Flagstaff attracted a small, but lively crowd of cinema lovers from across Arizona.
“I thought it was an incredible piece of filmmaking,” said Hal Pittman, a former Navy admiral and Department of Defense official from Phoenix, who attended the film’s screening. “We thought it was the most polished documentary that was shown during that documentary segment. Glen’s story is extremely compelling.”
Pittman’s wife, Rebecca Feaster, was also in attendance. Their son, Evan, “the world’s strongest violinist,” was the subject of From Strings to Iron, another documentary film being shown at AMFM Fest.
Feaster said she was touched by the relationship between Glen and his late mother Wilhelmina Casey, who was largely responsible for Glen’s transformation.
“I really related to the fact that his mother, even through her illness, had a vision for him,” said Feaster, a consultant.
“She didn’t have a lot of means. As a mother, I understood — to see that young man come out of really dire circumstances, rise above it, share with other children, give back to his community, understand his community, and start taking classes at a top university, it brings a great joy to my heart.”
Glen’s Village has been accepted into eight festivals, from Miami to Brooklyn. The next Philadelphia screening will be at the FirstGlance film festival, which will be Oct. 23-25 at the Franklin Institute.