Annual documentary film series in Hapeville is free and offers a chance to meet filmmakers, too

If you haven’t heard of the Southern Circuit Film Series, you’ve been missing out on some excellent documentary film screenings in Hapeville.

The Southern Circuit Film Series has been around since 1975, bringing “influential independent filmmakers and their films from around the country to communities throughout the South,” according to its website.

The series returns to in-person screening events after two years of COVID-19 restrictions. Attendees also have the chance to ask the filmmakers about their award-winning documentaries and the processes they used to bring their visions to the screen.

This year’s series kicks off September 24 with “Refuge,” directed by Eric Bernhardt and Din Blankenship.

Best of all: admission is free.

In-person screenings take place at Christ Church and Carriage House in Jess Lucas Y-Teen Park, 680 S. Central Ave., Hapeville. Reception is at 6 p.m., followed by screening at 7 p.m. and seating is limited. Check the Southern Circuit website for updates, as COVID-19 may force some dates or screening options to change. Social distancing guidelines are in place for all hosted events.

Program Director Jordan Young said in a press release, “Southern stories and storytellers come into sharper focus with this season’s film selections. Our screening partners, who include organizations of all shapes and sizes, are part of the growing network of support for independent filmmakers in our region. Together, we are excited to connect filmmakers with local audiences to deepen the impact of their films while catalyzing conversations around topics of importance with our screening partner communities.”

South Arts, a nonprofit regional arts organization based in Atlanta, partners with the National Endowment for the Arts and the State Arts Agencies of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, as well as with other public and private donors like the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to provide artists and organizations “a rich and responsive portfolio of grants, fellowships, and programs.”

Ticketing and schedule information is available through the local Screening Partner venues.

The City of Hapeville wants you to know that “the views and content expressed in the films of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers do not represent the views of The City of Hapeville. Some films are for mature audiences and are subject to viewer discretion.”

Print out this listing and keep it handy so you don’t miss any of these great films:

Sept. 24, 2022: “Refuge”

  • Erin Bernhardt and Din Blankenship, Director/Producers
  • Joseph East, Director of Photography
  • Chris Buckley and Arno Michaelis, Film Protagonists


Refuge is a story about fear and love in the American South. A leader in a white nationalist hate group finds healing from the people he once hated: a Muslim heart doctor and his town of refugees. Chris is a husband and father, a veteran, and until recently, a leader in the KKK. He started hating Muslims when the planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, but is forced to confront his hate when he receives a text from Muslim refugee, Heval. Refuge illustrates the false promises of hate and reveals where real and lasting refuge is found. Where there is love, there is refuge.

Oct. 10, 2022: “Stay Prayed Up”

  • D.L. Anderson and Matt Durning, Directors
  • Mother Perry and family, Film Protagonists
  • Phil Cook, Producer, Film Protagonist


The only thing mightier than Lena Mae Perry’s electrifying voice is her faith. She has spent the last 50 years sharing and sharpening both as the steadfast bandleader of The Branchettes, a legendary North Carolina gospel group that has packed churches throughout the South and lifted weary hearts as far away as Ireland. Stay Prayed Up is a spirited celebration, inviting audiences into “Mother” Perry’s close-knit community as the 82-year-old strives to extend her sacred song ministry ever forward.

This fast-paced, foot-thumping documentary follows Perry and The Branchettes as they prepare to record their first, fully live album, a hallmark in the canon of Black gospel groups. Health concerns with long-time, long-fingered pianist Wilbur Tharpe underscore the importance of “capturing the spirit” for producer Phil Cook, a white Wisconsin-born gospel enthusiast and musical polyglot half of Perry’s age. Through shared prayer, laughter, hardships, and praise, this “church gospel noisy crew” demonstrates that music, like faith, ain’t nothing without some fire inside.

Nov. 19, 2022: “Outta the Muck”

  • Ira Mckinley, Director, Producer, Writer
  • Bhawin Suchak, Director, Producer, Director of Photography, Editor


Outta the Muck is about family, football, and history come to life in an intimate portrait of the Dean family, longtime residents of the historic town of Pahokee, Florida. We take a journey back home, with filmmaker Ira McKinley, to the land of sugarcane, as he reconnects with his niece Bridget and nephew Alvin and explores their shared family history that spans seven generations. Told through stories that transcend space and time, Outta the Muck presents a community, and a family, that resists despair with love, remaining fiercely self-determined, while forging its own unique narrative of Black achievement.

Feb. 17, 2023: “Home From School: The Children of Carlyle”

  • Geoffrey O’Gara, Director, Producer, Writer
  • Sophie Barksdale, Co-Producer
  • Jordan Dresser, Associate Producer, Chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council
YouTube video


“Kill the Indian in him, and save the man” was the guiding principle of the U.S. government-run Indian Boarding School program starting in the late 19th Century. Through brutal assimilation tactics tens of thousands of Native children were sent off to boarding schools around the country that left the Native population scarred. See this era up close through the flagship boarding school, Carlisle Indian Industrial School, and follow the modern story of the Northern Arapaho seeking healing and fight to bring home the children that died at the school over 100 years ago.

March 17, 2023: “Mama Bears”

  • Daresha Kyi, Director
  • Laura Tatham, Producer
  • Kelly Creedon, Editor
  • Parker & Sara Cunningham, Tammi Terrell Morris, Liz Dyer, Film Participants
YouTube video


Mama Bears is an intimate, thought-provoking exploration of the journeys taken by Sara Cunningham and Kimberly Shappley, two “mama bears”—whose profound love for their LGBTQ children has turned them into fierce advocates for the entire queer community—and Tammi Terrell Morris, a young African American lesbian whose struggle for self-acceptance perfectly exemplifies why the mama bears are so vitally important. 

April 14, 2023: “Hazing”

  • Byron Hurt, Director
  • Natalie Bullock Brown, Producer
YouTube video


If you think hazing is a trivial college problem, think again. In Hazing, award-winning filmmaker Byron Hurt lifts the veil on secret, underground rituals that are often dehumanizing, abusive, and sometimes deadly. Byron, a member of a fraternity, places hazing culture under the microscope to discover a world of toxic masculinity, violence, sexual degradation, binge drinking, denial, and institutional coverups.

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Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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