Filmmaker brings hate free message to USD

Filmmaker brings hate free message to USD In the year after his death the family of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard agreed to participate in only one project.

Journey to a Hate Free Millennium is the work of two Los Angeles filmmakers, Brent Scarpo and Martin Bedogne. Their documentary centers on many of the recent hate crimes that have captured national attention, and features interviews with family and friends of many of the victims. Scarpo is touring college campuses with a program centered around the documentary.

Scarpo will present Journey to a Hate Free Millennium to the public and students of The University of South Dakota on April 10 at 8 p.m. in Slagle Auditorium.

Admission is free, and seating is limited. An adult must accompany children under 12. For more information, call Melissa Edwards at 605-624-2932.

Shepard's beating death in October 1998 in Laramie, WY, made national news, and his sexual orientation is widely believed to have been a factor in the crime.

The film features footage of Judy Shepard, Matthew's mother, reading a statement she wrote and read at the trial of Russell Henderson, one of the two men charged with her son's murder.

In a letter of support to the filmmakers, Judy Shepard wrote, "There is a tremendous need to address these issues with our young people, in order to create a world were every person is accepted and valued, and therefore ensure that what happened to Matthew, and our family, will never happen again."

Others featured in the film include the family of Jasper, TX dragging victim James Byrd; parents and friends of Columbine High School shooting victims; and well-known political, religious and entertainment figures including John Dye and Elton John.

The filmmakers believe racist killings, schoolhouse shootings and homophobic attacks should serve as the nation's "wake-up call" that all is not right in the world. A lack of self-love and self-respect is the underlying hate behind these crimes, Scarpo said.

"It's not a gay thing, it's not a black thing, it's not an Asian thing," Scarpo said. "It's a hate thing, and hate in nondiscriminatory."

"I believe that the documentary can be a motivational and educational tool that will have a major impact on every young person who sees it," said Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was among the students killed at Columbine.

The goal of the project is to begin productive discussions about hate in this country and to help people understand how hate affects their lives and our society.

The presentation includes approximately 35 minutes of footage from the documentary interspersed with dialogue among audience members about hate and what we can do to stop it. The program hopes to offer solutions and not just dwell on the problems. According to the filmmakers, this project is their vision for an American culture free of prejudice and hate.

Audience members are asked to close their eyes and imagine a world without hate.

"If we can't imagine it in our heads, it's never going to happen," Bedogne said. "A world without hate is a place where everyone can reach their full potential."

Scarpo worked in Hollywood for more than 15 years as an actor and casting director. He has appeared on stage, television and film, and cast such well-known films as Air Force One, That Thing You Do and The Shawshank Redemption.

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