The Zinn Education Project website has posted my Columbus film several times since I released the film in Spring 2011, but now it has posted the film on its List of Resources under the “Teaching Materials” section of the site. It has its own dedicated page now.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jonah Best, Writer/Director
Cell Phone: 202.294.9008
“Disparate City” Short Film Release
Local Filmmaker Addresses Social Issues in DC
“Disparate City” is a short film exploring cultural tension in DC created by gentrification, segregation, and prejudice, as well as the benefits of tolerance and understanding for District residents.
The filmmaker, Jonah Best, was born and raised in the Northeast DC neighborhood of Brookland. Attending predominantly minority DC public schools throughout his education, he was the only white male in his class upon graduating from Capital City Public Charter School this year. Immersed in the city’s Black and Latino cultures, Best held a unique perspective on the city, which informed his writing for this film. The film was Best’s Senior Expedition at CCPCS, a research and outreach project the school requires for graduating seniors which helps the community and relates to students’ career interests.
Drawing inspiration from George Lucas’s American Graffiti, Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy, and the filmmaker’s own experiences, the film uses the relationships between its young central characters to illustrate culture and communicate its messages about larger social structures. The protagonist, Eduardo, is a native of DC’s diverse Columbia Heights community displaced to Northeast by the neighborhood’s gentrification, giving him first-hand experience with DC’s more troubling social issues. The other starring role is Luz, who just moved to the affluent, transient, popular DC neighborhood Dupont Circle. She does not understand the city behind the politics and desperately wants to leave what she sees as a temporary home. The film follows their tense yet growing friendship and their decisions about where to go and what to do after high school.
To ensure the film’s characters, their biases, and the overall plot were true to the experience of DC residents, the writer conducted about twenty interviews of high school students and several of adults from all across the city. They expressed opinions and prejudices they held or perceived about the various regions of the city, from west of Rock Creek Park, to uptown, to Northeast, and east of the river.
The filmmaker is looking to reach a wider audience for the film, to spread its message, and to open a dialogue in the community. To start, he’s looking for local news outlets, newspapers, and blogs interested in giving the film exposure online. The arts organization CentroNia will screened the film on August 2nd in Columbia Heights, and Deanwood X Design will screen it August 10th in Deanwood. The filmmaker is pursuing further venues for screenings in July and August. The film’s trailer is available on YouTube:
along with the full length film:
Best wrote, directed, shot, and edited the film, and he cast the film entirely with unknowns, fellow students interested in acting. The lead actor, Nelson Cruz, had never acted before. The film was shot on the popular indie filmmaker tool set, a full high-definition DSLR camera on a small, sturdy shoulder mount and steadicam rig. The film was edited using Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe After Effects CS5.5. The main crew consisted only of Best and his four actors. The adults associated with the project only oversaw its writing and distribution. Teachers at Capital City supervised the character and contextual research, professional screenwriter and UCLA alumnus Paige MacDonald advised the last three drafts of the script, and also documentary filmmaker Ellie Walton, new media content creator Kelli Anderson, and Kimberly Gaines, director of CentroNia’s Studio 64 youth program, advised the distribution of the film.
Never having received formal training, Best learned his filmmaking skills from books, documentaries, his various employers and mentors, and mostly from practicing the craft on his own time. He entered the realm of professional filmmaking at fifteen, and now at eightteen, he is moving to Manhattan to study film and television production at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He has worked as an editor, graphic designer, animator, and assistant on set for social justice documentary filmmaker Ellie Walton, who was featured in a Washington Post article about her work in the DC community. He created multiple short films for performances at Columbia Heights’ GALA Hispanic Theatre, taught video editing at CentroNia — a charter school and arts center in the neighborhood — and traveled to Borlänge, Sweden to create a variety of media, including promotional films, short documentaries, and music videos for the Peace and Love music festival in 2011.
Best was the valedictorian of Capital City PCS’s class of 2012. That class, the school’s first, had only thirty-nine graduates, all of which are college bound this fall. Eighty percent of the class will be the first in their families to go to college, and eight students will also be the first to graduate high school. This diverse and successful group of students attracted some media attention at the graduation ceremony.
At NYU, Best was selected to be a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar, one of approximately 75 students per year chosen to participate in an immersive social justice program while studying at the university, and one of approximately 150 students in the entire NYU class of 2016 to receive a merit-based scholarship award.
“Disparate City,” through both its story and its place in his career, represents the beginning of Best’s process to leave home, making it not only the most ambitious film of his career so far, but also the most meaningful story.
The full length film is now available here on YouTube.
Disparate City is a short film about growing friendships between youth in Washington DC as they confront the cultural tension created by gentrification, segregation, and prejudice in the city. A high school student named Eduardo, a native of the Columbia Heights neighborhood who was displaced to Northeast with the city’s gentrification, is dealing with the departure of a close friend leaving for college. Now exploring the possibilities for his own next steps, to leave, to stay, to go to school, or to work, he encounters Luz, who has just moved to the District and does not understand the city thriving in the shadow of Congress and the President. As the two wander DC, struggle with the city’s cultural divisions, and approach major decisions about their futures, they grow closer and discover a new depth to their city.
Credit for all music sampled is given in the end credits. The music is used only for non-profit and educational use.
Here is the trailer for my senior project film, called “Disparate City.” Release is imminent, perhaps no more than a week away, so check back for updates.
“Disparate City” about growing friendships between youth in Washington DC as they confront segregation and cultural tension in their city, struggle with their own prejudices, and face major decisions about their futures.
“Blood Red” and “Any Other Name” by Thomas Newman
Such music is sampled only for non-profit and educational use.
Both the trailer and the film were produced by students for an academic project with oversight from teachers and industry professionals.
This is the film that was shown during the Capital City PCS Class of 2012 graduation ceremony. As said in other places, this film is an exhibition of the class’s character and the class’s goodbye to the school.
I produced this film alongside Jared Perez, Daniel Reyes, Carlos Amaya, and Terell Giordani.
Yesterday, June 14th, I graduated from Capital City Public Charter School, Valedictorian of the Class of 2012.
The school has received much media attention lately, as the school has won numerous awards, and each student in the predominantly minority first graduating class is college bound. The Washington Post wrote a short piece about the graduation.
I produced, shot, and edited a film, which served simultaneously as an exhibition of the class’s character and the class’s goodbye to the school. It was screened during the ceremony, and is now featured on the school’s vimeo page.
9 News Now (WUSA 9) aired a piece on the graduation ceremony, with emphasis on the story of the upbringing of Nelson Cruz Jr, a close friend and classmate of mine. I’ll let the piece speak for itself. Nelson and I are off to study film production this fall at Ohio University and New York University respectively.
Nelson stars in my upcoming student film “Disparate City,” alongside Diana Sanchez, Rosmery Solorzano, and Israel Nuñez.
Why do I want to go? shared on DoubletheNumbersDC.org, FirstintheFamily.org, and AmericanGraduateDC.org
My film, Why do I want to go?, which won $2000 and was the overall winner of Double the Numbers’ Youth Media Competition, has been shared on a number of college access websites. It’s been posted in the videos page of the High School branch of the First in the Family Website, the Youth Voices page on the website of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate DC program, and the homepage of Double the Numbers DC.
Why do I want to go? won the 2011 Double the Numbers Youth Media Competition, earning a total of $2000. It was named “Most original and compelling video/visual product” and “Most compelling product and overall winner of YMC 2011,” and it earned Capital City PCS the title, “School with the most original and compelling product that reflects a high level of collaboration between staff and student.”
Last September, because of my work on Columbus – A Hidden History, my teacher Julian Hipkins, my classmate Jared Perez, and myself were invited to the Howard Zinn Dedication at Busboys and Poets restaurant to speak about Howard Zinn and education reform alongside Cornel West, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Marion Wright Edelman, Barbara Ehrenreich and others.
The Zinn Education Project website recently posted an article with transcripts of our speeches.
This film won the 2011 Double the Numbers Youth Media Competition, earning a total of $2000. It was named “Most original and compelling video/visual product” and “Most compelling product and overall winner of YMC 2011,” and it earned Capital City PCS the title, “School with the most original and compelling product that reflects a high level of collaboration between staff and student.”
In this film, Capital City PCS’s Class of 2012 describes why it wants to go to college.
I produced, shot, and edited this piece.
I created this short film as a part of my application for Chapman University’s film program. It’s a depiction of DC and my life here.
Chapman allows applicants to use music without licensing for these application films.
John Carlos came to speak with students from my school, Capital City Public Charter School. At the request of Teaching for Change, I recorded an interview of one student about her reaction to the talk. The video was posted in an article on the Zinn Education Project Website.
Today is Columbus Day, for no good reason.
Through connections I made working on Columbus – The Hidden History, I earned the opportunity to speak alongside Cornel West, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Marion Wright Edelman, Barbara Ehrenreich and others at the Howard Zinn Dedication at Busboys and poets.
Article at the Zinn Education Project Website.
A documentary I created for National History Day (nhd.org). It explores several individuals’ educations about Christopher Columbus and his arrival in the Americas.
This film won at the Capital City PCS school wide and DC city wide levels of the NHD competition, and was an official selection for the national competition.
Because of the impact of this film, Jared Perez, our teacher, and I were chosen to speak alongside Cornel West, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Marion Wright Edelman, Barbara Ehrenreich and others at the Howard Zinn Dedication at the restaurant Busboys and Poets.
This film has been posted in multiple articles on the Zinn Education Project Website, and it has now been used in classrooms.
National History Day allows its participants to sample music, photos, and videos so long as credit is given to the original creators.
A short film I created with Luis Rumbaut and Amari Witherspoon for my US History class. We took a number of historical events and explained them as simply and clearly as we could, sort of.
We sampled music by Christian Bjoerklund and Revolution Void. All other material copyright 2011 Jonah Best, Luis Rumbaut, and Amari Witherspoon.
This short film was created by Clara Lincoln and Keonie Smith. I provided my camera and editing tools and helped them with postproduction.
Clara, Keonie, our teacher Alice Cook, who oversaw the project, and I were recognized by the Gertrude Stein Foundation and National Stonewall Democrats for this short film’s impact.
Produced, Directed by Clara Lincoln and Keonie Smith
Edited by Clara Lincoln
Supervising Editor, Equipment by Jonah Best
Copyright 2010 Clara Lincoln and Keonie Smith
I shot this video and edited it for Israel Nuñez.
Written and Directed by Israel Nuñez
Cinematography, Editing, and VFX by Jonah Best.
I shot and edited this PSA for a friend of mine, Rosmery Salorzano. This video one second place in an Express STD video contest.
Produced by Rosmery Salorzano
Directed by Jonah Best and Rosmery Salorzano
Cinematography and Editing by Jonah Best
Un proyecto para mi clase de español.
director, escritor, editor, VFX: Jonah Best
Directores de fotografía:Israel Nuñez and Jonah Best
Video copyright 2010 Jonah Best