A short film titled The River by Rhodes English major Janay Kelley ’24 made its premiere at the seventh annual Indie Memphis Youth Film Fest held Aug. 26 at the Halloran Centre. Kelley produced the film with two $5,000 Youth Production Packages she received in 2018 and 2019 as winner of the event’s Grand Jury Prize for two consecutive years.
“Dealing with intercommunal harm, the duality of nature and monstrosity, and the truths that some have tried to wash away, The River is an experimental short, following a small community as they grieve the drowning of a young girl,” says Kelley.
A graduate of Memphis’ White Station High School, Kelley came to Rhodes as a participant of the Clarence Day Scholar program, in which students participate in events related to the Day Foundation and in Memphis leadership initiatives. Day Scholars must have attended high school in Memphis or Shelby County, and the scholarship provides up to $35,000 per year.
Kelley currently is an Urban Fellow with the City of Memphis, serving at the Benjamin Hook Public Library’s Cloud901 teen learning lab. She also is featured in Smithsonian Magazine about her involvement with the state-of-the-art lab that helps teens develop 21st century skills.
“If it were not for my acceptance into the Day Scholar Program, I don’t think I would have been able to further my education,” says Kelley. “No other program offered me this much financial support, and all because I am a Memphian that loves and cares for my city.”
Kelley won the 2019 Indie Memphis Youth Film Fest for her film Kinfolk about her maternal grandmother’s recollection of racism and Black culture in the South. In her films, Kelley explores themes including family, intimacy, history, community, and spirituality through a Black Southern lens.
Kelley also is the 2022 recipient of the Black Creators Forum Short Film Grant—another $5,000 award—presented by Indie Memphis and TONE. She will use the grant to produce Kiss Me Softly about a young college student battling with her anxiety after breaking up with her doting boyfriend and wanting to love but being too scared to be loved.