‘Shelby Knox’ coming to the Santy
Of all the stories that wound their way through the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, Rose Rosenblatt’s and Marion Lipschultz’s documentary, "The Education of Shelby Knox," was one of the most interesting. The film tells the story of Knox’s fight to include comprehensive sexual education in her Lubbock, Tex., high school. Working in a conservative community largely unresponsive to her concerns, Knox fails to find success with her efforts, but she does undergo a dramatic shift, from conservative Christian to liberal activist. That storyline helped propel the film to a place in PBS’s "Point of View" series and spots in dozens of film festivals, but Lipschultz said coming to Sundance was one of her favorite experiences.
"The absolute highpoint was Sundance, for me," she said. "The whole experience was pretty amazing."
She’ll return to town this Thursday for the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Series screening of "The Education of Shelby Knox" in the Jim Santy Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. Lipschultz said the film actually began with an issue. "We started out with a fact," she said, "and that fact was that the federal government had gotten into the business of sex education."
Under the Clinton administration, she noted, the federal government agreed to support only abstinence-only sex education.
"We were surprised to see that," noted Lipschultz. Intrigued by the issue, she and Rosenblatt began to pursue the idea of a documentary about the issue. They wrote a pitch for a grant and began to search for a subject. But that proved to be tough.
"At the time it was not at all controversial," she said. "There was no local controversy We started looking for a story, couldn’t fine one; it took a year."
Then the pair came upon Lubbock, where the Youth Commission, a city-sponsored youth organization, was working to include comprehensive sex education in the public school curriculum. At the time, Knox was one of the members of the commission.
"There are kids you know are going to be good," said Lipschultz.
Knox, she noted, was animated and passionate about the issue. And while at the beginning of the film and when the project started Knox was a Southern Baptist pledging to remain abstinent herself, Lipschultz said she could see a bit of what was coming. "Certain things I expected to happen," she said. "I expected her to change, because she was on the verge."
Lipschultz also said she wasn’t surprised that Lubbock never responded to the students’ position. The conservative community, she noted, could simply wait until they graduated. Overall, Lipschultz admitted that she and Rosenblatt made the film with a definite point of view, and said that the two directors remained close friends with Knox, but at the same time, Lipschultz said they tried to present the story as the characters told it, with their intentions intact
"We worked very hard to get Ed Ainsworth’s, Shelby’s antagonist’s, point of view, intact, into the film," she said. But, she noted that with the film so squarely centered on Knox that some might dismiss the film as a work representing only the liberal point of view. However, she said that she was ultimately quite happy with the response to the film. "We’ve gotten calls and screenings from here to Timbuktu," said Lipschultz. The film’s success, she noted, has made the two filmmakers’ work as documentarians at least a little bit easier. "We used to be outside the door; now we’re inside the door," she said. She said that currently they are working on a film about the conflict between evolution and intelligent design among other projects. But she noted that making documentaries still isn’t an easy business. "Compared to the feature world," she said, "there’s no money."
"Finances are always tough," she noted about the film. "It took five years to do."
"The Education of Shelby Knox" will screen at 7 p.m. in the Jim Santy Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 3. The show is free and open to the public. Prior to the screening at 5 p.m. there will be a reception with Lipschultz at Rum Bunnies Bar and Grill. That event is also free and open to the public.
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