USA 2018, 72 min. DIR Emily Harrold PROD Emily Harrold, Diane Robertson, Lauren Franklin, Xuan Vu CAM Alexander J. Hufschmid, Kyle I Kelley, Kelly Creedon ED Xuan Vu
When he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2005, Bakari Sellers became the youngest African-American elected official in US history. In While I Breathe, I Hope, the charismatic Democrat sets his sights on becoming the state’s lieutenant governor, a role not held by an African American since 1876. Emily Harrold offers an eye-opening look at the legacy of racism not only in the South, but overall in American politics as she follows Sellers - inspired by his Civil Rights activist father and the challenges he faced - as he campaigns and encounters the tragic shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME church.
Emily Harrold is a documentary filmmaker from Orangeburg, South Carolina. Her films have screened at festivals including the Tribeca Film Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, DOC NYC and the Telluride Film Festival. Harrold is a member of Film Fatales and Filmshop. She is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
"I was drawn to this story in large part because I saw something happening in my home state that I thought was an incredible story that encapsulated the legacy of racism in the US that wasn’t getting national attention. I knew if I didn’t follow what was unfolding, no one else would. I was also very intrigued to see how Bakari’s family legacy of Civil Rights would make it possible to compare the past with the present and explore how far — or maybe how little — we’ve moved on from Jim Crow."
Festivals (partial list): New Orleans Film Festival, Cucalorus Film Festival (Wilmington, North Carolina), DOC NYC, Toronto Black Film Festival, Indie Grits Film Festival (Columbia, South Carolina)
Awards: Audience Award for Feature Doc - New Orleans Film Festival, The People’s Grit Audience Award - Indie Grits Film Festival, Director’s Choice Emerging Filmmaker Award -Woods Hole (Massachusetts) Film Festival, Best Feature Documentary - San Antonio Black Film Fesival.
Location: We filmed throughout South Carolina during the course of making While I Breathe, I Hope, but did the majority of filming in the state capital of Columbia. South Carolina is a geographically and culturally diverse state that is considered one of the most conservative states in the US. However, there is a strong liberal base among the African American community. There is also a rich history of civil rights activity, and that tradition has continued into the present. South Carolina is considered by many to be a couple decades behind other parts of the US both socially and economically. That is most evident when considering that the Confederate Flag was removed from the SC State House grounds only a few years ago.
If You Find Yourself There (From the Filmmaker): In Columbia, Main Street has a walking tour of Markers (https://www.postandcourier.com/free-times/news/new-signs-mark-columbia-s-civil-rights-history/article_4bfd0014-704a-5382-ae69-653129ca7089.html). There’s also the South Carolina State House and grounds (lots of signs of the Civil War past...and the former location of the Confederate Flag. The Confederate Soldiers Statue is still there). And you might catch Bakari along Main Street or at USC football games on Saturdays. Outside of Columbia is Denmark, SC, which is Bakari's hometown. Dr. Sellers (Bakari's dad) is around Main Street, which doesn't have a lot but it is very “small town SC.” On the drive to Denmark from Columbia you'll pass lots of cotton and peanut fields and get a sense of the agricultural economy of the state.
Become Further Involved: Let America Vote’s #CapGownVote initiative to get people registered to vote: https://capgownvote.org/