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Filmmaker follows New Hanover faculties’ intercourse abuse, racism allegations in upcoming documentary

Kerry David (left) sits down with education activist Angie Kahney (right) for the documentary “Open Secret”, which is planned for 2021. (Port City Daily / Courtesy of Kerry David and Lorrie Blaustein)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY – When award-winning filmmaker Kerry David talks to people about the documentary she is making in North Carolina, she speaks of corruption, collusion, cover-up, racism and the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of children.

She admits that none of these terms are typically associated with a school district. However, the project she is recording focuses on the New Hanover County Schools.

For the time being, David is entitled “Open Secret” and is in the process of putting together footage, interviews and uncovered information worth 20 months into a documentary. The film will tell the story of the last year and a half when the district avoided accountability Decades of allegations Sexual abuse cover-up, which prompted the State Bureau of Investigation to open a case to investigate whether the law had been broken.

Filmed amid the Black Lives Matter movement in a city with a deeply racist history, the documentary will also address inequality and discrimination within the school system.

Until recently, “Open Secret” remained a secret itself. The project was largely kept under lock and key.

However, last week, David was copied in an email of more than 80 people to a Justice Department attorney asking when SBI’s investigation into NHCS would be completed.

“I decided, since I was on that chain, to write for myself and let them know that I’ve been documenting this situation for 20 months,” said David. “And I too would like to know when the SBI investigation would be completed.”

Days later, David still hadn’t heard of it. Several people attached to the email chain reached out to her and asked her to share their accounts on camera. She has now started filming again and will conduct several more interviews this week and next.

While David is editing, she tries to cut more footage than she can fit in 90 minutes.

“It’s proving impossible,” she said, adding that she thinks a movie is a disservice.

She plans to call friends in Hollywood to watch a series.

Who is Kerry David?

David has been in the entertainment industry for 25 years, working on the popular Agent Cody Banks franchise and assisting Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman on productions.

“Open Secret” is her third documentary. In recent years she published “Breaking the silence: women on the front lines of the war of poaching” and “Bill Coors: The Will to Live. ”

After completing projects in a row in Los Angeles, friends who moved to North Carolina persuaded David to move to the East Coast in 2019. Then David met her landlord who told her about the problems NHCS was facing. David was skeptical of what she was hearing.

“I thought, ‘No, that doesn’t happen these days,'” David said. “That’s, that’s impossible.”

David’s landlord put them in touch with some active members of the community who brought them up to speed on the problems in the district. Based on these conversations, she decided to roll over and “see where it goes”.

Even so, she hesitated about whether she was the right person to tell the story of the New Hanover County Schools, especially as a freshman to the area. But she was won over by a friend of David.

She said, ‘Well, who better to tell this story? You are completely open-minded. You don’t have a dog in this fight. You love children. You’re just trying to get to the bottom of it, “David recalled,” and hopefully you’ll find out it’s a massive misunderstanding. “

In the beginning, David investigated alleged racial discrimination at Forest Hills Elementary Spanish immersion program. The district has been accused of favoring white children with its first come, first served program. Percentages indicated that the program was Majority knows, but the district denied any wrongdoing and the client resigned in 2016.

David dug deeper and linked the Wilmington coup of 1898 with the present. In a pre-2020 election interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning Wilmington’s Lie writer David Zucchino, he described how the socio-economic and political situation that led to the massacre was almost a reflection of the present day.

Until the beginning of 2020 Administrators left the central service office following the announcement of the SBI investigation. David has been linked to sexual assault survivors, social activists, and legal professionals. She kept her crew small and intimate to allow people to be more comfortable opening them.

“It was a mountain of information that came our way,” said David. “Our job was to clarify it, to make something meaningful when we couldn’t understand it ourselves.”

Weave together

In June 2019, when former Isaac Bear teacher Michael Earl Kelly pleaded guilty to repeating sex crimes with students in court, he admitted The school opened an investigation after he exposed himself to a student 12 years before he was arrested. He was cleared up.

From what she learned, David felt like anyone best placed to advocate for the children had “left their posts,” even the school council members at the time.

David said she knew “over 100 victims, probably over 200”. Those she interviewed are the ones she believes will tell the most compelling stories with enough evidence to support her claims.

“There should have been a lawsuit and there wasn’t one,” said David.

She learned about a 7-year-old child in the school district who was allegedly raped. In that case no one was fired. She has stories on camera about two teachers who have yet to be arrested.

“That’ll be a,” he said, “she said,” if it’s not examined, “said David.

The film doesn’t just focus on pedophilia at NHCS. She deals with issues such as race and discrimination because the sexual misconduct David interviewed students all have one thing in common: they are either colored people and / or have a low socioeconomic background and cannot afford representation.

David believes they have been targeted for these reasons.

“I think I’m their last glimmer of hope, so to speak, because if nothing else, their stories will be recognized and they will not be brushed aside,” said David.

During the filming, other events at the national level that brought racial differences to the fore of the film were unraveled: George Floyd. Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubrey. The Black Lives Matter movement fueled by her death could not be ignored.

“As a filmmaker telling the story, I had no choice but to bring that into the film because it happened at the same time,” said David.

Making waves in 2021

David is aiming for a release date in 2021.

Upon completion, she plans to show the film in Wilmington to show viewers the faces of the citizens who stood up for the students who have been sexually assaulted and to demonstrate the importance of the local elections in removing the “bad actors” from voting.

Although events are still unfolding and questions still remain unanswered, David said she had an idea of ​​how she’s going to finish the film – and she wasn’t waiting for an SBI conclusion.

If the results of the investigation are not yet available at the time of publication, she plans to clarify in the documentation how long the SBI investigation will take.

“Audiences will see what I’ve shown in 20 months and make their own estimate,” said David. “It’s very confusing why it takes the SBI so long to make a decision about something that we made a decision about in six months. . . But we’ll see if things will change or if it will be more of the same. “

Send comments and tips to Alexandria Sands at alexandria@localdailymedia.com

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