Articles: Denver Filmmaker Targets Taboo Subject




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Laurence Washington

Denver movie director Ali Jackson’s filmmaking is driven by social and contemporary issues with videos of the Million Man March and an urban music show featuring Gerald Lavert, Patty LaBelle, Brian Mcknight and other pop music stars under his belt.

But it wasn’t until Jackson, 30, discovered that one out of four women have been sexually assaulted during their childhood, that the savvy filmmaker decided to make an experimental documentary called "Path Altered," a thought provoking film premiering at the fourth annual Starz Denver Pan African Film Festival which runs April 24-27 at the Starz FilmCenter on the Auraria Campus.

Starz Denver Pan African Film Festival

Jackson explains that his 23 minute feature (which shows 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday) highlights three women who were devastated by extreme sexual abuse during their childhood.

"Once I heard the statistics," Jackson says, "I started asking different women about it. [I was] trying to dispel the statistics," Jackson says. "But more and more women kept coming back with, ‘Yeah.’ [That happened to me.] So that pretty much changed the way that I approach, view and speak to women."

"Path Altered" has no nudity, no physical scenes of abuse, Jackson says.

"However, we strongly hint to those," he says. "But I was not willing to compromise my morals or ethics to show nudity. The subject matter is tough enough. So is the language."

Jackson explains that a filmmaker doesn’t have to show nudity to get an audience’s reaction.

"There’s one point in the movie where we went to an adult store," Jackson says, "and this particular character became an exotic dancer -- because of her experiences as a child. I dress her very provocatively, erotic, but it was more burlesque. So you get the message even though she’s completely clothed."

There’s a trend among indy filmmakers to deal more and more with physical and mental illnesses. And this year’s Pan African Film Festival offers 40 films addressing those themes. Jackson says sexual abuse is one of the roots to those illnesses that needs to be examined more.

"I wish more people would tackle these issues," Jackson says. "Because, socially, people of color don't talk about these issues."

from "Path Altered"

Jackson says the people on which his film is based, understandably did not want to be on camera. So he had to come up with a creative way to tell their stories through dramatization rather than reenactments.

"Our approach is very unusual for a documentary," says Jackson, who’d like to be able to film the audience’s reactions to be included on the DVD when it’s available.

Jackson says that during the year and a half project he encountered a number of difficulties, one of which was finding out what it was like to be a filmmaker in non-film cities such as Denver and Aurora.

"In any other city," Jackson says, "you can get extras to come out for anything. It may have been difficult, but the project gave me very valuable learning lessons. You learn more when you have less help. And you learn quick. I ended up the writer, director, producer - basically the creator of the whole thing."

Jackson edited the film with his close friend David Brown with whom he spent countless hours in the editing room talking about the morals, values, and the ethics of what they did and did not want to show. Jackson says he’ll hold a question and answer session after the screening to discuss these and other concerns the audience may have.

"This movie is made to create an open platform for informing and educating the audience. The hope is to get people talking about their experiences and sharing knowledge about this issue, which happens so frequently but is such a taboo."

Organizations or schools wanting to see the film can call Ali Jackson at: 303-609-4231.


What: Starz Pan African Film Festival
When: April 25 – 27
Where: Starz FilmCenter at the Tivoli, on the Auraria campus
Tickets: $8 per film
Call: 303-832-3190


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