This past week was the 20th anniversary of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. All week long dozens of world class films were shown throughout the county at every film venue you can imagine. This year Journeyman International and ConsciousBuild Inc. proudly sponsored the viewing of If You Build It at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The film, “follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they work with local high school students to help transform both their community and their lives. Living on credit and grant money and fighting a change-resistant school board, Pilloton and Miller lead their students through a year-long, full-scale design and build project that does much more than just teach basic construction skills: it shows ten teenagers the power of design-thinking to re-invent not just their town but their own sense of what’s possible” (www.ifyoubuilditmovie.com).
This documentary is a slam dunk in my opinion! The high-end production quality, witty humor, and captivating story line will keep you in your seat for the entire 95 minutes. The film starts off by introducing rural Bertie County and the high school students it will follow. The film maker depicts the town as this degrading sinkhole that has no future outlook for its youth. The current working class is barely making it and all the youth are leaving town with every opportunity they get. Emily and Matt arrive to change all that and to instill hope for their town by motivating a group of high school students to build a community center.
After completing this film I was completely astonished with what high school students could achieve with a little support and guidance. At first, most of the students resisted and didn’t want to be in the program. However, after completing some smaller projects they realized how rewarding design can be. Towards the end of the two years each and every student had grown tremendously in their character, skills, and passion for Bertie County. If you are passionate about design & community then this is a must see film for you!
Official Trailer: http://vimeo.com/79902240
After the film had ended, Journeyman International and ConsciousBuild hosted a special panel discussion to share what public interest design meant to them. The audience was mostly SLO County residents that were non-students, which was very useful in creating a dynamic discussion. Most of the questions were centered around how Journeyman operates and what their current projects consisted of. I think the discussion was important, because it allowed the audience to meet professionals in their own community who are doing projects similar to what If You Build It had depicted. Public Interest Design is steadily growing each year, with many companies devoting a portion of their time and profit towards improving communities in need all over the world. Journeyman International is working hard every day to put San Luis Obispo on the map as a leader in public interest design and community based architecture in an international capability. To learn more visit www.journeymaninternational.org.
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