Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is proud to announce the world premiere screening of the student-produced documentary film Surviving Clotilda at the 24th annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival on October 28, 2021. As the largest university-run film festival in the country, SCAD Savannah Film Festival celebrates cinematic creativity from both award-winning professionals and emerging student filmmakers.
Surviving Clotilda is a 25-minute documentary telling the extraordinary story of America’s last slave ship, the Clotilda, and of the 110 Africans imprisoned aboard whose resilience turned horror into hope. In 1860 the schooner smuggled African captives into Mobile Bay, Alabama — more than 50 years after the importation of enslaved humans was outlawed. The story of the Clotilda and the names of those enslaved Africans have been passed down for generations by their descendants, many of whom still live in a community called Africatown, only a few miles from where the ship was found.
Surviving Clotilda was produced and directed by recent SCAD alumna Oliva Grillo (B.F.A., film and television, 2021) and SCAD Atlanta senior Kathryn Jamieson (B.F.A., film and television). Grillo and Jamieson, along with a team of more than 30 SCAD students, worked closely with the descendants to thoroughly research the history of the Clotilda, and tell the story from their point of view.
“The Clotilda seemed to exist in legend only and was nearly lost to history until its rediscovery and verification in 2019,” producer-director Jamieson said. “By bringing together a curated team of skilled SCAD students with fresh eyes, open hearts, and the drive to create, we were able to listen, record, and piece together the history that this community deserves. I believe as long as someone is remembered, they still exist. As student filmmakers committed to these important people and moments in history, we are passing forward what was nearly forgotten. We do so with compassion and urgency, hoping that others will pick up this mantle.”
The film is as special as the story itself. Surviving Clotilda was created through the prodigious skills of students in the award-winning SCAD film and television program, in collaboration with creative minds from the university’s top-ranked degree programs in animation, visual effects, motion media, dramatic writing, and sound design. The film was commissioned by Visit Mobile with the City of Mobile through the university’s collaborative innovation studio, SCADpro. SCADpro combines the university’s brightest students and industry-veteran faculty to help companies and organizations across the globe not only realize prototypes and products but communicate their efficacy.
The film combines deft use of traditional filmmaking techniques with cutting-edge original imagery. “The animated film brought the story to life in a way I never could have imagined. I get emotional every time I watch it,” said Darron Patterson, President, Clotilda Descendants Association. “The story and depictions are accurate and precise. The student filmmakers pulled things out of our souls, interpreted it in a way all could understand, and put it on a screen for people to see. Students at SCAD possess a quality that cannot be taught — sincerity.”
Visit Mobile is incorporating Surviving Clotilda into its tourism plan for the area. With the 2018 discovery of the Clotilda in Mobile Bay, just north of the city, Mobile has gained new international attention. Coming in the Spring of 2022, a new Africatown Heritage House museum will open to the world, sharing the experience of Clotilda survivors.
“The students and faculty at SCAD went way beyond, as they took extraordinary measures to form relationships with the community and stakeholders,” said Visit Mobile President and CEO David Clark. “This story will re-shape the Africatown Community, bring in visitors, and change humanity around the world for the better.”