"Suzanne Niedland and Anberin Pashe's Miss Lil's Camp proved one of the day's highlights, even though its short length (26 minutes) left viewers desperate for more information on its subject: author (Strange Fruit) and pioneering integrationist Lillian Smith ran a summer camp in Georgia for upper-crust teen girls from the 1920s through the mid-'40s, one that stressed intellectual stimulation as well as social equality. Four women who spent summers at the camp, including Smith's niece, were brought together to reminisce about this remarkable woman and the many ways she challenged their worlds.
Niedland, who came up from Florida for the festival, said she's at work on a feature-length film adaptation of Smith's life and admits to dreaming big -- maybe she could interest Cate Blanchett in the lead? "I think I have a good chance of interesting some A-list actress in this," she says. "There are not many strong parts for women out there."" -The Baltimore Sun
"Jupiter, FL – The award-winning short documentary, Miss Lil's Camp, has been invited to screen at its 21st film festival, The Baltimore Women's Film Festival, which takes place October 13–14, 2007, in Baltimore, Maryland. Miss Lil's Camp is scheduled to screen at the Baltimore Museum of Art as part of the festival's Documentary Films Showcase from 11:00 am –1:00 pm on October 14, 2007. Suzanne Niedland, who produced, edited, and co-directed the film with Anberin Pasha, will fly in from Jupiter, Florida, to attend the festival and screening. Miss Lil's Camp has won numerous awards and honors, including an exclusive invitation to screen at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center Celebratory Ceremonies and, most recently, a CINE Golden Eagle.
Miss Lil's Camp is a documentary about the director of an exclusive summer camp for girls from upper-middle-class Southern homes. Miss Lil, as Lillian Smith was known, taught Laurel Falls' campers that segregation was wrong. She expressed her thoughts and radical ideas at a time when Southern leadership was committed to a racially segregated society, and Jim Crow laws permeated every aspect of social life. Her ideas repulsed some young campers, while others embraced them. In the film, three former campers and a former camp employee return to Laurel Falls Camp in Clayton, Georgia. Weaving narratives of former campers and rare archival footage of Lillian Smith, the film brings Miss Lil and Laurel Falls Camp back to life.
Niedland has attended screenings as far away as Hawaii. "Introducing Lillian Smith to those who don't know about her wonderful work and place in history is one of the reasons I love attending festivals with the film. The relevancy of this little documentary is Lillian Smith's method of dealing with the timeless issues of intolerance and empowerment of women. What pleases me most is that when the 26-minute film ends, the dialogue about the relevancy of these issues continues."
Marisa Cohen, a co-founder of the Baltimore Women's Film Festival, who found the short documentary on MySpace, stated, "I have seen many independent documentary films over the years, and I can definitely say Miss Lil's Camp is special. Not only is the documentary a great example of quality filmmaking, but the movie also carries a positive message about overcoming racism and homophobia. We are so pleased to have a film about such an important and influential woman in the inaugural year of the festival."
Niedland, who manages all of the marketing and PR for Miss Lil's Camp, created a MySpace page for the film last fall. "I didn't know anything about MySpace and, honestly, thought it was a joke," Niedland says, laughing, "I was quite skeptical. To my surprise, within a week, I received a message from the Baltimore Women's Film Festival MySpace page inquiring about Miss Lil's Camp. That began communication; I submitted the film to the festival, and the rest is history!"
In addition to the opportunity to screen at the Baltimore Women's Film Festival, Niedland is especially excited about returning to the area, as she was born and spent her early years in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. She plans to reunite with family and old friends, who will be showing their support for Niedland, the film, and the festival by coming to Baltimore.
About The Baltimore Women's Film Festival
The Baltimore Women's Film Festival is founded in the appreciation of cinematic art that is either designed for or created by women. The festival is also proactive in women's health issues and is currently donating 50% of all 2007 ticket proceeds to The Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center. Indie films, art, and music will be featured at this unique and highly-anticipated festival. For more information on The Baltimore Women's Film Festival, go to www.bwfilmfestival.com and www.myspace.com/bwfilmfestival."
By Charles Judson - June 16th, 2006
"The doc's at this year's AFF [Atlanta Film Festival] have been strong. They've been more consistent and entertaining than the narratives. Screened as a preview of IMAGE's Out on Film, Miss Lil's Camp does more in 26 minutes than most documentary features do in 90 minutes. And, the film never devolves into a "look, she's a lesbian, see a lesbian in the 40's" kind of flick. Directors Anberin Pasha and Suzanne Niedland keep the focus on creating a complete picture of Lillian Smith. Out of the 26 minutes, less than 5 minutes are spent discussing Smith's love life. The rest of the time is spent on Laurel Falls Camp and Smith's respect for the intellectual and natural curiosity of the girls she taught. And what she taught them was powerful stuff for the time. She never hid the ugliness of the world from them, speaking honestly on segregation and lynching. Knowing that most of her girls couldn't and wouldn't find answers at home, she answered their questions about sex. Miss Lil, who had taught in China and would later co-found and edit literary magazines with her partner, wanted to create thinkers and doers. And she more than succeeded. She created a legacy that continues to influence and inspire.
This small film succeeds where big budget fare, such as the heavy-handed Mona Lisa Smiles, fail. Miss Lil's Camp is an honest and emotionally engaging love song to the strength and fierce intelligence of women." - Cinematl
February 3, 2005
"Screened Jan. 27, 28 at Windrider Forum during Sundance"
PARK CITY, Utah – More than 150 Christian film and theology students and Sundance Film Festival goers, as well as some 100 members of the Park City churches, were wowed by several Angelus Awards-winning films showcased Jan. 27 and 28 at Mountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Park City, Utah, as part of the inaugural Windrider Forum.
The forum, held during the second week of the Sundance Film Festival, was designed for students to screen Sundance and Angelus films, explore how film and faith intersect, and establish a dialogue between the faith and film communities. During a Windrider session, one of the Sundance filmmakers spoke to the students and answered their questions. Audiences at both Angelus screenings responded enthusiastically to the films, as evidenced by their sustained applause after each film, the thoughtful questions they posed to the attending filmmakers, and their comments to Family Theater staff. Park City television and public radio (KPCW-FM) interviewed Angelus Awards director Monika Moreno in advance of the January 28 screenings.
A Family Theater crew taped interviews with film critic Roger Ebert; Bob Berney, president of Newmarket Films, a feature film distributor (including The Passion of the Christ); Mark Borde and Susan Jackson, co-founders of Freestyle Releasing, a film distribution and marketing company (Mark was a 2004 Angelus festival juror); and teenage actor Khleo Thomas (Disney's Holes). The interviews will be used for promotion of the Angelus Awards Student Film Festival. Windrider Forum was presented by Priddy Bros. Productions along with partners Biola University, La Mirada, Calif.; Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., and Colorado Springs, Colo.; Angelus Awards/Family Theater Productions, Hollywood; and Mountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, also participated. Families of Mountain Vineyard and other Park City churches hosted Windrider students and Angelus filmmakers. Angelus Awards winners who attended and answered audiences' questions were Sharat Raju, American Made; /Joey Jones, Little Red Plane; Hilla Medalia, Daughters of Abraham; Suzanne Niedland, Miss Lil's Camp; and actress Joan M. Blair, representing Graham Tallman's CodeName Simon*. 2004 Angelus jurors Amy Salko Robertson and Jody Eldred also participated in the discussions following the screenings.
The Angelus Awards Student Film Festival, entering its 10th year, honors undergraduate and graduate student films that explore the complexity of the human condition with creativity, compassion, and resect. It was created in 1996 by Family Theater Productions, a Catholic media outlet based in Hollywood.
MovieMaker's current Winter issue 2005, also its "Best of" and "Sundance" issue, cited the Angelus Awards as the "best bet" festival for student filmmakers."
"LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The work of two University of Florida documentary students beat out 150 other films to receive a coveted place in the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library. " Miss Lil's Camp," the story of a Georgia camp director who taught white girls in the Jim Crow South that segregation was wrong, won a student competition to be screened along with award winning films about former President Clinton and the issues he faced. The Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, one of the select screeners for Oscar-nominated documentaries each year, selected "Miss Lil's Camp."
The film was made by University of Florida Film Institute students Suzanne Niedland and Anberin Pasha. They interviewed three women who attended Lillian Smith's exclusive girls camp in Clayton, Ga., and wove in rare archival footage of the camp to tell Smith's story. Niedland said Smith was "ahead of her time" in the way she challenged young women of that era "to question, rather than accept the world they lived in." She said Clinton represents that same ability of individuals to overcome far-reaching injustice. " Lillian Smith and President Clinton, more so than any other president, had empathy, support and concern for minorities and particularly the black community," Niedland said. "President Clinton came from humble beginnings and identified closely with those that suffered from discrimination."
Niedland and Pasha made "Miss Lil's Camp" for a graduate thesis project. They will attend the Nov. 16 screening at the main library in Little Rock. The Clinton Library opens a few blocks away two days later with a gala for Clinton, international dignitaries and an anticipated 30,000 guests." - Associated Press
"One of the films in the upcoming Atlanta Film Festival will be Suzanne Niedland and Anberin Pasha's "Miss Lil's Camp," about Laurel Falls Camp for girls near Clayton, Ga., which was run by Southern liberal writer Lillian Smith from 1925 to 1948. The award-winning short documentary is outstanding for its nature cinematography, poignant interviews of former campers and employees, and its artistic usage of still images. The tranquil musical score by Roger Hunt is most apropos. Through these vehicles, the viewer is transported to a time and place in segregated northeast Georgia in which the lives of young women were changed, often to the horror of their traditionalist parents. How did one remain a "proper" young Southern lady when everything one had been taught regarding race relations was improper?
The film captures the quiet grace and dignity of both Smith and the era in question. Smith, who edited the progressive literary magazine South Today and penned the controversial books "Strange Fruit" and "Killers of the Dream," served as a mentor to her campers, broadening their knowledge of the arts and convictions regarding Jim Crow. She was a contemporary, yet even more outspoken, than legendary Atlanta journalist Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As such, she inspired figures such as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Miss Lil's Camp" will screen at the Atlanta Film Festival both Monday, June 12 and Thursday, June 15, at 9:30 p.m. at the Cinefest Theater in the Student Center at Georgia State University. Filmmaker Suzanne Niedland will attend both screenings, and the cast will attend the June 15th screening."
"Whereas, The award-winning documentary "Miss Lil's Camp" has been selected for screening at the 30th annual Atlanta Film Festival; and,
Whereas the film subverts metropolitan assumptions about the role that a liberal, white, middle-class woman of letters from north Georgia could have created for herself in the struggle to end segregation in the United States in the middle decades of the 20th century; and
Whereas Atlanta City Council District 2 is the home district of the City's most significant Institutions commemorating that struggle, including the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, and
Whereas Atlanta City Council District 2 has the honor of being the host district for the film festival screening of "Miss Lil's Camp";
Now therefore, I, Kwanza Hall, a member of the Atlanta City Council, and on behalf of the City of Atlanta, congratulate filmmakers Suzanne Niedland and Anberin Pasha for their skill and compassion in bringing Lillian Smith's story to a wide audience, and declare the week of June 12 - June 16, 2006, as "Miss Lil's Camp" Week in the City of Atlanta.
Signed, Kwanza Hall, Council District 2"
"Mary Glenney, of WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa, interviewed Suzanne Niedland Saturday, April 9, 2005, at 10:25 am during The Women's Show. Mary interviewed UNIFEM's Through Women's Eyes Festival director, then spoke with Suzanne regarding Miss Lil's Camp, followed by a chat with the director of the documentary, Beauty Academy of Kabul. The show is archived on the station's website. www.wmnf.org"
"Last evening, the showing of " Miss Lil's Camp " was truly one of the most exciting moments in my life. Your powerful artistry awakened many nostalgic memories in my past as the scenes drew back the curtain of two summers spent at LFC with Miss Lil. Your achievement is beautiful and heart blessing to all of us who appreciate the finest in the creative arts. I will share this experience with many of my friends and family...
As I told you, I was at camp the summers of 1936 - 37. I think these are the years as it was a time of great sadness in my family, having lost my mother to cancer in 1935 and my father to mental illness and later on to suicide in 1940; Laurel Falls was the best possible therapy for my broken 12-year-old heart... Another vivid and powerful impression given to me those summers was the music appreciation class held in the gym. A Japanese teacher played selections from La Boheme and Madame Butterfly by some great orchestra. It mesmerized my imagination and healed some of the pain within me. From then on, classical music was my favorite choice, eventually leading me to work for an opera singer while in Vienna....how strange the path that life leads us upon from childhood to here now in Ashland and our encounter at the showing of your first documentary!! I have always believed in miracles, and this was one for which I will treasure."
With much joy and gratitude to you,
Formerly known as Jackie Watland 1936-37 Laurel Falls Camp"
"Miss Lil's Camp" (Suzanne Niedland & Anberin Pasha, USA, 26 minutes): In the 1920s, Lillian Smith took over running her family's Laurel Falls Camp, a summer retreat for privileged young white women in Clayton, Ga. But what the teens learned and discussed in the camp was practically revolutionary: Miss Lil talked of desegregation, and she told the campers lynching is wrong. Smith went on to write the controversial 1944 novel "Strange Fruit," about a romance between a white soldier and a college-educated black woman. Add to that the fact that Smith and the camp's co-director, Paula Snelling, were closeted partners, and you quickly realize the campers were in quite a progressive environment. In the fall of 2003, three former campers and one camp employee returned to Laurel Falls to discuss Smith's legacy. These sweet women firmly speak of the good Smith did and how their camp experiences sometimes created rifts in their own families. When they fall into a camp chant together in crackly, creaking voices, it's uplifting. (Swartz)
"When Suzanne Niedland received her B.S. in Telecommunications, specializing in Broadcast Production from the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1988, she had no way of knowing she'd be returning over a decade later to become an award-winning filmmaker. "I graduated from University of Florida's Documentary Institute (part of the College of Journalism and Communications) in May 2004 with an M.A. in Mass Communications, specializing in Documentary. I learned a lot about film and a lot about myself. It was a very positive experience for me," Suzanne enthused. "I had researched film schools specializing in Documentaries that used digital video and was intrigued by what the Documentary Institute offered. They keep the program small (I was one of 6), offering new equipment as well as providing each film with up to $5,000 for their budget. The other very appealing part of the Doc Institute was that the faculty works on their own projects and share/involve their process with the students. The fact that I had gone to UF for my undergraduate degree was a coincidence in choosing the Documentary Institute, but I certainly was intrigued about going back to Gainesville after many years away and becoming a double Gator!"
Ironically, another homecoming of sorts took place within Suzanne's and her thesis partner's short film Miss Lil's Camp (www.misslilscamp.com), which revisits the exclusive summer girls' camp run by the outspoken Lillian Smith (author of the groundbreaking Strange Fruit) in the early to mid 1900s. "Miss Lil taught campers that segregation was wrong when Jim Crow laws permeated every aspect of social life in the South," the filmmaker stated. "Some girls were repulsed by her ideas while others embraced them. In our film, we meet four women (three of the former campers and one of the camp employees) who return to Clayton, Georgia, bringing Laurel Falls Camp and Miss Lil back to life."
"In our research class, we were exploring many different ideas," Suzanne continued, revealing the genesis of the project. "My thesis partner, Anberin, expressed an interest in Southern writers, and our advisor, Sandra Dickson, suggested she look into Lillian Smith. Anberin and I were both really inspired by the story of a woman who was so ahead of her time. Lillian Smith was determined to make the world a better place and risked her own safety in voicing her concerns and opinions in favor of equal rights. She truly is an example of how one person can make a difference."
And Suzanne and Anberin's dogged determination made a difference as well. "Anberin did the initial research. She found Lillian Smith's niece, who controlled Lil's estate and received her cooperation to begin research on the film. She also gave Anberin the phone number of author Rose Gladney who did many years of research on Lillian Smith, eventually publishing a book of letters. We met with Rose, who gave us many more names and numbers to contact, as well as sharing a lot of her research with us. Rose was a dream! One thing led to another, and we ended up at Laurel Falls Camp, no longer a camp but an artist's retreat (www.lillianesmith.org), staying in one of the cabins as a welcomed guest of niece, Nancy Smith Fichter and husband, Robert, who were also a great help to getting our film made. We visited Georgia Archives as well as Clayton Historical Society and called many people associated with Lil. We were able to gather a lot of wonderful archival material," added Suzanne.
And all of the filmmaker's hard work has paid off in droves. Miss Lil's Camp won the Honorable Mention in the Documentary category at the Angelus Awards this past September and received a subsequent screening at the Angelus Festival in October. It also took 2nd place in the Documentary category in the Kodak Student Competition at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival. As a result of winning the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival's International Student Competition, Miss Lil's Camp became the only student film invited to screen as part of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute's Reel Film Festival. The event took place from November 16th through the 19th at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center Celebratory ceremonies (www.docufilminst.org/reelfilmfestinfo.htm). In addition, the film has been seen at the Detroit Docs Festival, where it took 3rd place in best short documentaries and the Hollywood International Student Film Festival. Not bad for a filmmaker whose only prior experience was in front of the camera — acting on stage and television and industrial work.
But Suzanne proved a quick study behind the lens. At the Doc Institute, she made 3 films between 4 and 10 minutes long before embarking on her thesis. "Horsing Around was a music video assignment, but not in the MTV or VH1 format. The assignment was to find images that related to movement and put music to it. I found myself at a Pasafino Horse Farm and put a Latin soundtrack to the images. Boggy Spirit was an observational short where we visited a camp for chronic and terminally ill children and followed a little girl with a heart defect - one of her many challenges - and her family for a weekend where all of the children are made to feel normal. Starting Over was a brief look at my mother who lost my dad in 2000 and moved three hours away where she knew nobody," the filmmaker explained.
All this was fine preparation for the 8-day shoot, 40 hours of footage that developed into Miss Lil's Camp. "90% of the footage was shot on my Panasonic DVX 100. When we were doing the only multi-camera shoot, we were only able to get one other DVX 100, so the third camera was a Sony DSR 250," Suzanne added. Though she shared DP credit with her thesis partner Suzanne did almost all of the editing herself - a process that took from December till May. "We were doing everything ourselves - we didn't have a crew - so attending classes, producing the shoots, writing the script, etc., was all going on simultaneously. I still look at the film and see things I would like to tweak, but I had to finally make myself stop editing." Fortunately, the funding, equipment, and editing suite with a G5 and Final Cut Pro provided by the University of Florida alleviated some of Suzanne's stress.
Suzanne expects to be working on her next project by the beginning of 2005, though she hasn't settled definitively on a story yet. Until then, she will bide her time marketing Miss Lil's Camp and attending festivals and conferences. "The Angelus Awards were an amazing entry into the festival circuit. They are incredibly nurturing and make everyone feel like a winner," Suzanne added. "I want to make films that inspire, move and entertain. Learning in the structured environment of the Doc Institute - with real deadlines - was very valuable for me. To make mistakes and take risks under the watchful guidance of the four faculty, who work in the industry, has prepared me for planning and working on my own projects."
Needless to say, Suzanne will be too busy on location to make it home again anytime soon."
Miss Lil's Camp
Miss Lil's Camp was produced in conjunction with
The Documentary Institute at The College of Journalism and Communications at The University of Florida