NUtech Ventures 2020 Creative Work of the Year
The Creative Work of the Year award went to James Le Sueur, Samuel Clark Waugh Distinguished Professor of International Relations and chair of the Department of History. The award recognizes an individual who has developed a creative innovation, such as a film, which is typically protected under copyright.
Le Sueur is the co-producer and director of the documentary film, “The Art of Dissent,” which explores the role of artistic activism during Czechoslovakia’s communist takeover and nonviolent transition from communist power. The film premiered in August 2020 at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, where it won the Social Spotlight Award, which recognizes films that are bringing awareness to critical and underreported issues.
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[00:00:03.130]My name is James Le Sueur,
[00:00:05.150]in the filmmaking world,
[00:00:06.440]my name is James Dean Le Sueur for obvious reasons.
[00:00:09.360]I'm the chair of the department of history
[00:00:11.130]at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:00:13.240]In 2017, Mariana Capkova, the producer,
[00:00:17.300]and I, as director of filmmaker producer,
[00:00:20.750]we decided to make a movie called "The Art of Dissent"
[00:00:24.270]and we wanted to make a movie that would show
[00:00:26.890]the power of positive political action
[00:00:30.320]that would be able to show us a way
[00:00:33.170]in a very different world than we live in today.
[00:00:35.990]And I liked 1989.
[00:00:37.900]It's a beautiful moment in time
[00:00:39.130]where the end of communism comes to pass,
[00:00:42.760]you have the beginning
[00:00:43.730]of nascent democracies all over Europe and elsewhere
[00:00:47.410]and there's just a beautiful moment.
[00:00:48.840]We wanted to kind of look at that and say
[00:00:51.000]what happened to 1989
[00:00:52.630]and why aren't we doing the same stuff today?
[00:00:56.490]That was the original idea for the movie
[00:00:58.200]but we also wanted to make a movie
[00:00:59.850]that was about the Dissident Movement in particular
[00:01:03.349]and we wanted to make a movie
[00:01:05.210]that would not just be about one person,
[00:01:07.640]'cause there's lots of movies
[00:01:08.613]about Vassallo hobble or other people,
[00:01:12.070]what we wanted to do is have a movie,
[00:01:13.718]that would demonstrate the network of dissidents
[00:01:18.040]and how they worked together to kind of bring communism
[00:01:22.540]and authoritarianism to an end in central Eastern Europe.
[00:01:26.140]The thing I don't like about traditional work,
[00:01:28.960]if your an oral historian
[00:01:30.330]or work with interviews,
[00:01:32.010]is I don't like speaking for people
[00:01:34.200]and just, they don't see the person
[00:01:36.630]or hear the person.
[00:01:38.180]I think film is that thing
[00:01:40.400]that allows us to let the person speak
[00:01:42.870]it's their voice their face,
[00:01:45.040]and they can, and that's more authentic to me,
[00:01:48.210]than just appropriating people and writing about them.
[00:01:51.067]There's a journalistic kind of way of thinking
[00:01:55.836]with cameras and writing
[00:01:57.750]that really translates into how we make film.
[00:02:01.160]And so I have the historical expertise of an historian
[00:02:04.920]but I also think like a journalist
[00:02:06.880]because journalism addresses contemporary issues, right?
[00:02:10.920]So even though this film really seems to be
[00:02:13.370]about dissonance, is really about our world today.
[00:02:16.700]If you step back from it and think about where we are
[00:02:18.830]the reason we made the movie
[00:02:20.270]is because of where we are today.
[00:02:22.096]Not just as the achievements of the past, but to say,
[00:02:27.010]let's not take our privileges,
[00:02:29.450]democratic privileges for granted.
[00:02:31.680]Because people who didn't have them,
[00:02:33.210]fought tooth and nail to get them.
[00:02:34.910]And I think that the dissident movement
[00:02:36.590]Czechoslovakia is a perfect illustration,
[00:02:39.530]of like the power of journalism, film history together.
[00:02:44.130]Well, NUtech became involved because we needed a producer.
[00:02:48.380]RP was really important.
[00:02:50.080]She's the one who kind of steward it,
[00:02:51.450]and Brad Roth is one of the other people,
[00:02:54.350]and RP and Brad worked together with me
[00:02:56.520]to help negotiate all this stuff.
[00:02:58.720]We met many times over the course of a year or two,
[00:03:02.840]and we got it done.
[00:03:04.810]And really deeply indebted to
[00:03:07.350]NUtech for the risks that they took.
[00:03:10.610]And thinking about my ability to do this, they trusted me.
[00:03:17.140]And I think it matters that it came to them,
[00:03:20.350]having spent 20 years at the university of Nebraska
[00:03:23.130]and, you know, I, I'm proud to be here.
[00:03:26.420]I really am,
[00:03:27.360]and I think we can do ambitious things
[00:03:29.030]that other people can't do.
[00:03:30.820]Because they allow people like me to take a risk with them.
[00:03:34.850]It's impossible to say thank you
[00:03:36.860]in a way that really kind of meets the role they played
[00:03:40.920]but I'm really, really indebted to university of Nebraska
[00:03:44.920]and Nutech in particular.
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