Petersburg Rising Sweeps its Third International Film Festival

Small Town Film Wins Hearts; Inspires Hope for Future

When Marcus Newsome took on the superintendency of Petersburg City
Public Schools in 2016, the move was equated to “Michael Jordan coming
out of retirement” by one School Board member.


He’d just retired from neighboring Chesterfield Public Schools where he
had successfully led the wealthy district for a decade. Petersburg was
different: The city was millions of dollars in debt. Schools weren’t
accredited for decades. The district was near default on teacher paychecks.
“I thought the thing that was missing in the city was hope,” Newsome said.
“Hope and belief in students and what they could accomplish.”


“Petersburg Rising,” a documentary that tells the story of three students
and the efforts to overcome a troubled time in Petersburg’s recent history,
won Best TV Documentary in the Culver City International Film
Festival last week. This is the 6 th top award for the film which includes:
Audience Choice Best Documentary Feature, and The Founders Award at
the Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF).


“This is a universal story – especially now – as people throughout the world
experience crisis and grapple to maintain hope and find a practical way
forward,” explains Alan Blankstein, Award-winning author, educational
leader, and Executive Producer of this film. He was encouraged to produce
the film in a chance meeting with Sam Pollard, Emmy Award-Winning
documentarian, who became a co-writer and Senior Executive Consultant.
“I was so moved by this work,” said Heather Waters, RIFF founder. “I was
literally brought to tears by this film. You come to know these kids and get a
new perspective of their story. This brings the human element to the
statistics, and inspires action.”

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