College of Media | News

Journalism student and professor won awards for films from Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities

Betsy Drazner '12 JOURN
5/10/2011  2:30 pm

The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities chose its winners for its 2011 contest. Among the winners were journalism student Ilana Strauss and journalism professor and filmmaker Jay Rosenstein.

Ilana StraussStrauss '13 JOURN submitted her work in the World Without Humanities Video Contest. She received honorable mention for her video “Dirges in the Dark.”

“The prompt was to examine a world without humanities so I decided to do a music video,” Strauss said. The song she strategically chose as the music in the video was Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

“The song is about rock-and-roll springing up and disappearing,” she said. It fit in with the theme of the contest. “Dirges in the Dark” features elements of the humanities including art, music, and poetry that disappear as the song ends. It shows how sad it is that the humanities are disappearing around us, Strauss said.



Strauss used the software application, Moviestorm, to create her music video.

“It was a film editing process, rather than an entire filming process,” she said.

Moviestorm provides users with the opportunity to create a simulated world with perfect actors who will take any direction given. Moviestorm users can also use all camera angles needed.

“It probably took me a couple weeks,” Strauss said. “I basically had all the materials at my fingertips, but I did the entire thing on the computer.”

Jay RosensteinJay Rosenstein, associate professor of journalism, won first place in faculty research in the humanities for his documentary “The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today.” The documentary is about Vashti McCollum, a woman who sued the school board in Champaign in 1945, for holding religious instruction in her son’s class.

“I decided to make an entire documentary about it when I researched the case and learned how incredibly historic the court decision was, and how fascinating and dramatic the story of the trial was as well.” Rosenstein said. “Creating the documentary really gave me an opportunity to explore the religion clauses of the First Amendment and the history of court decisions about those clauses in great depth. I have come away from that with a great love and reverence for the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

This subject was important to broadcast because it is necessary for all Americans to understand the constitution. Rosenstein said the First Amendment's religion clauses are often misunderstood, yet are necessary for democracy to exist.

“I'm hopeful my film will help a little bit in the understanding of the first few words of the First Amendment,” Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein is proud of his recognition with the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.

“It's really gratifying that the IPRH can accept the work that I do- documentary- as being equivalent to traditional academic research. It shows the IPRH is a very forward thinking organization and adapting to the changing definitions of scholarship. I hope to do more with them in the future.”

In addition to taking first place in this contest, “The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today” also won a Peabody Award and two Emmy Awards among other honors. It airs on PBS stations throughout May.