Alumnus screens movie on public education
Alex Cao | Monday, September 30, 2013
Notre Dame alumnus and independent film director Patrick Creadon, ’89, returned to the University on Friday for a screening of his new documentary “If You Build It.”
The film, which screened in Debartolo Performing Arts Center, will premiere in theaters in 2014.
“I would describe this film as a cross between ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ and ‘The Breakfast Club,'” Creadon said. “This is a story of what our education can be if it dares to try new ideas and dares to try things that it doesn’t normally do.”
“If You Build It” follows the efforts of Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller, two architects invited to rural Bertie County in North Carolina by Dr. “Chip” Zullenger, Bertie County’s Superintendent, to help revitalize the struggling public school system, Creadon said.
Creadon said the movie shows how education can change if it dares to try new ideas and give students a reason to feel indebted to their community.
“A sad thing about brilliant kids is that they leave their hometowns and they never come back,” Creadon said. “They feel that they have nothing to give back to the community. They never get asked to solve problems in their own town.”
Creadon said the goal of his documentary is to motivate kids to give back to the institutions that help form them.
“This story we’re telling is trying to reverse that,” he said. “This is about what those kids can do for their community and ultimately become better citizens.”
Pilloton, who appears in the film, said Bertie County represents a prime example of the demise of rural America.
“It’s the hollowing out of small towns. The brain drain where the educated and qualified leave and never come back,” Pilloton said in the film’s opening minutes.
In the film, she said orienting new projects around things that the community needs could be vital to public education. She said design and building classes offer the chance to create a different type of classroom, giving youth the opportunity to imagine a new future for themselves.
Creadon said the impact of the film has already been recognized outside of Bertie County, in places such as Washington D.C.
“The White House asked us to be part of a program called Film Forward where they take four documentaries and screen them worldwide to, essentially, show what America can be,” he said. “I think what they see in this film is an educational model that could work everywhere. It could work in small-town America and anywhere overseas.”
Creadon was proud to return to his alma mater to show his work.
“As a third-generation Domer, Notre Dame really meant something to me before I even attended,” Creadon said. “What made this place for me would be the professors. I never really knew what I wanted to do and I was majoring in international relations and I was set on a path to law school. It was a head of the Psychology Department Dr. Daniel Lapsley who told me to take a year off before graduate school and it was then when I started my career.”