If you love Greenbelt or are simply curious about it, you won’t want to miss Defending Utopia: The Greenbelt News Review at 80. That’s the new one-hour documentary about the paper – and Greenbelt itself – by Greenbelt documentarian Susan Gervasi, commissioned to celebrate the paper’s 80 years of continuous service to the town.
The title comes from the libel suit against the News Review that ultimately went to the Supreme Court, which decided in favor of the paper and created an important legal precedent for press freedom. The film highlights the case, as well as the paper’s early and consistent support for preserving the green in Greenbelt. (The paper defended its green belt of forest in the town’s early years, and in 1987 fought to save the 80-acre Parcel 1 of forest, a successful campaign led by Paul Downs, Greenbelt’s 2017 Outstanding Citizen. All news to this resident.)
Susan Gervasi, a Greenbelt resident since 1977 and director of the local Utopia Film Festival, was the perfect choice to make this film. I’d seen and admired her documentary Psychedelic Mysticism:The Good Friday Experiment & Beyond and asked her how covering the News Review was different from her previous works.
“It was so convenient!” was her immediate response, understandably. There were very short drives to interview subjects, and as a local insider herself, she knew exactly whom to ask about what. But there’s more. “The experience also deepened my sense of knowledge and connection with the town.” In covering the News Review she was covering Greenbelt itself: “The paper is our history. If somebody kept a diary of the town, it’s the News Review.”
The film’s premiere showing at the Old Greenbelt Theatre on Thursday, November 16 looks like a fabulous event!
7:30 doors open for a Dessert Bar, catered by Chef Lou
8:00 Speakers: Greenbelt’s own Chris Cherry (on how he used the paper’s archives to research the city’s theater-related history) and the Greenbelt Museum’s Megan Searing-Young (on the paper’s role in the community). They’re joined by Lee Levine, a DC attorney specializing in defending media clients before the Supreme court (on the importance of the paper’s case before the court and the subsequent ruling). All three are interviewed in the film.
9:00 the film is shown.
Buy tickets online or in person at the theater. See you at the premiere!