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Cause + Effect Film Festival Is a Platform for Social Progress

Film is perhaps better equipped to inspire social transformation than any other, more static form of art. Especially in documentary format, film can achieve the effect of placing the viewer at the documented moment in time, creating lasting visceral memories and fostering deeper understanding of the human experience. Film engages, informs and inspires, all while keeping the viewer entertained. This is the goal of Athens’ newest film festival, Cause + Effect.

Cause + Effect features short documentary-style films from Georgia that address contemporary progressive social issues. The festival is hosted by Alliance for a Better Georgia, an Athens-based nonprofit dedicated to educating Georgians on a variety of current social, environmental and political reform issues in order to improve quality of life across the state.

Brandon Hanick, who serves as director of both the festival and communications at Alliance, says one major goal of Cause + Effect is to provide Georgians an equal opportunity to share their voice with the public. With today’s technology, filmmaking is especially accessible to amateurs and younger, emerging artists.

With the Cause + Effect Film Festival, Alliance aims to engage younger Georgians by providing a platform to explore, through film, the issues that are important to their families and communities,” Hanick says. “We want more voices to speak out on issues that matter to all Georgians.”

Two rounds of voting determined the strongest of 30 applicants from across the state, narrowing the pool to seven semi-finalist films and, ultimately, three prize winners. In the first round, Alliance members selected semi-finalists on the basis of originality, clarity, professionalism and the potential to inspire real reform. The second round determined three winners via social media feedback: The video that got the most “shares” and “likes” won first place, and so on. This unusual voting process underscores the festival’s goal of creating real social impact, here gauged by the scope and involvement of the social media audience. Each of the three winners was awarded a cash prize relative to their spot in the final lineup. 

“We hope that these films and Cause + Effect in general will create a spark that leads to more engagement on important issues and, ultimately, progress in Georgia,” says Hanick.


The seven semi-finalist films reflect themes of environmental awareness, promotion of public education and the ongoing hot-button issue of police brutality. Films of a more amateur quality were by no means discriminated against in the semi-finalist selection, which speaks to the Alliance’s goal of providing an equal platform for all stories. The three winners were announced Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Sunshine’s on the Way features a small adolescent cast in an African American community struggling with the hardships of coming into adulthood. The black-and-white film has very little dialog; instead, the visuals follow a narrative in song, drawing links both to old-time silent movies and contemporary music videos. A hopeful resolution is complimented by a flourish into color, promoting the message that education is the way to create a better life.

Flint River takes a closer look at the surroundings of the West Georgia river. The film opens with the stories of three Georgians who live along the river and progresses to a scuba diving expedition along the riverbed. An emphasis on the sublime serenity of respecting the wild prompts viewers to reconsider our connection with natural world and the urgent need to protect it from our own destruction.

The Importance of Lios is a stop-animation narrative about a young earthworm named Lios—a clever name playing with the earthworms’ role of reversing soil health—who feels overlooked and insignificant in the world of animals, where bigger creatures stomp on his reputation. Students of UGA’s Dramatic Media Department produced this playful, educational short in partnership with the International Plant Nutrition Institute.

Composting documents a workday for the UGA composting program, which diverts campus food waste to the UGArden, an organic teaching farm that supplies students with hands-on farming experience. The film features the program’s student leaders as they go through their daily activities, encouraging viewers to participate in more sustainable produce practices.

Prize Winners 

Grand prize winner Run for Justice is based on the Atlanta group that, since its founding in 2014, has completed two cross-country runs to raise awareness of police brutality. Moments from these runs are incorporated within an otherwise non-sequential composite of film clips from around the world. A narrator speaking universal, spiritually-minded observations on the human experience inspires the viewer to reflect on our self-constructed separation from one another as the source of suffering in the world.

First runner-up Fallen Soldier documents the impassioned response of the Chamblee County community in memory of Anthony Hill, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran who was fatally shot in a conflict with the DeKalb County Police this past March. The veteran suffered from the effects of bipolar disorder and was reportedly having a manic episode, acting incoherently in the parking lot of his home apartment complex. Hill was unarmed, and the community response speaks against police brutality and the consequences of using unnecessary force.

Second runner-up We Farm Georgia features Gabby Montoya, farm manager of the Summerland Farm in Cartersville. A “first-and-a-half” generation Mexican-American, Montoya’s parents and grandparents were farmers in Mexico, and she says that farming is a way she connects to her heritage and her own spirituality. Montoya encourages Latinos in America to nurture their passions by honoring their heritage as well as the American elements of their identity.

Cause + Effect was awarded a $500 grant by the Athens Area Arts Council. As a free festival, Cause + Effect cannot generate revenue, so the grant is extremely valuable in that it will help offset associated production costs.

Tickets to the showcase are free but required for entry and can be reserved on A reception catered with hors d’oeuvres from The National will kick off at 6:30 p.m., with the film screenings beginning at 7:30 p.m. A Q&A session with filmmakers will close out the night. For those who cannot attend the festival, the semi-finalist films can be found on YouTube.

WHAT: Cause + Effect Film Festival
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 8, 6:30 p.m.