Shani, 13, is the daughter of one of the most vocal black leaders in Buenaventura, Colombia. She has inherited her mother’s commitment to activism but struggles to reconcile the exhausting demands on her mother’s time, and, most importantly, the risks that her job entails. At the funeral of yet another murdered black activist, Shani is reminded of the numerous death-threats her mom has received for her continuing activism. The next day, however, a conflicted but determined Shani is out marching alongside her mother in a huge protest demanding State response to the murders of Black leaders.

Larry Bridges is 14 and goes by LJ. He used to live not far from Canfield in Ferguson where Mike Brown was murdered. He still lives in a mostly black, mostly poor neighborhood with his mom and younger brother. But now he attends a new school where he is one of only a handful of black students. LJ is beginning to really grapple with issues of race and racism. Like Shani, he has a mother who nurtures his questioning. After the murder of Mike Brown, she made a point to take LJ back to Canfield to visit Mike Brown’s memorial and protest the murder of yet another unarmed black man.

2500 miles separate Ferguson from Buenaventura and at first glance it might be difficult to imagine how Shani and LJ’s realities connect. This is precisely what Awakening aims to reveal. Though thousands of miles separate Buenaventura from Ferguson, the systemic conditions in each of these predominantly black communities are strikingly similar: socio-economic exclusion, discrimination, high levels of violence, and aggressive over-policing.

AWAKENING documents black teenagers from Ferguson and Buenaventura as they reckon with what it means to grow up in their communities. The youth in each locale take part in a grassroots media summer program teaching video production through methodologies aimed at personal transformation through reflexivity and the potential of telling one’s own stories.

The film builds up to the climactic last weeks of the workshops when the youth from Fergusson and Buenaventura come together in the creation of a final video project as they attempt to bridge the distance that separates them.

Bringing together youth who do not necessarily know each other, who share in common racial identification and place, is an alchemy of uncertainty and possibility. Our cameras will capture the beauty and drama of the relationships they forge, among their own cohort and eventually with the youth thousands of miles away. We will capture their realizations, questions, fears and discoveries around how black lives are valued and how paradigms can be resisted, challenged and affected as part of a global movement.

In this way, AWAKENING is a film about two communities, about these communities in relation to each other, about young people from Buenaventura and Fergusson in dialogue with one another, engaged to understand each other and each other’s context and ultimately strengthening the ties of solidarity and resistance that can emerge from the creation of community.