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Varley wins Best Documentary at the Daytona Film Festival


Williamsburg, Ky. – On November 9th, John Varley, associate professor of communications at University of the Cumberlands (UC), attended the 2012 Daytona Film Festival in Florida where he won Best Documentary for My Brother, My Sister, a film he co-directed, shot and edited.

“This is really exciting! After the long process of making the film and wondering if you have done a good job, whether anyone is going to like it at all, this gives a real sense of validation,” said Varley. “It was an honor just to get into the festival, so winning just felt so good. It has re-energized me to start working on the next project. So if anyone reading this has a great film idea….”

The documentary, co-directed with writer and producer Jameil Hamilton, is about the effects of Florida’s Civil Rights Movement on two brothers and two sisters, Dan and Jim Harmeling and Patricia and Priscilla Stephens, who fought for justice as students in the 1960s. The film focuses on the events they experienced that would shape the rest of their lives, and provides a story of tragedy and triumph that mirrors the history of the United States as it gives an intimate portrait of these heroes.

Varley was inspired to do the film while reading a book on the story of racism and the civil rights movement in Florida in the early 1960s. The book provided insight into the lives of the brothers and sisters and the toll of participation in the lives of activists beyond their activism.

“It was eye opening for me for several reasons,” said Varley. “I wasn’t aware of Florida’s past as one of the most segregated and violently racist states. I also hadn’t considered that those activists that were protesting racism in the 60s were conflicted when it came to celebrating the changes they made happen.”

Since winning Best Documentary at Daytona, My Brother, My Sister has been entered into several other festivals. Varley plans to look for distribution of the film soon.

Varley has taught in the communications department at UC for a year and a half and says, “My experience at UC has been great. The staff, faculty, and students have all made me feel so welcome…I think those connections are the real strength of UC. In ten years a student is probably not going to remember the details of the lectures they had, but they will remember the personal connections that they made during their time at UC.”

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; twelve graduate degrees, including two doctorate, two specialist and eight master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.