Student documentary premieres to rave reviews

2014 Student Documentary premiere.

Hundreds of people gathered Friday evening in the UC Theater to watch the world premiere of the student documentary, "Distracted: Eyes Off the Road." The film tells the story of distracted driving in Montana through people who have had experiences from minor fender-benders to death because of distracted driving.

There was hardly a dry eye in the house after viewers watched the story of Jozi Moore, a teenager from Sidney, MT who lost her sister to a distracted driving accident. The Moore family opened up to the student producers, telling their painful story of loss. The students documented Jozi's first school assembly on the topic of distracted driving and talked with other high school students about the impact her presentation had on them.

Students in the documentary course produced the hour-long program in just 15 weeks under the guidance of professors Denise Dowling and John Twiggs. Dowling said, "I'm extremely proud of the hard work and dedication of the students in this class. They put a lot of other things on the back burner in order to complete this project. It's got a profound emotional impact and anyone who sees it will be moved."

Producer Conor Balantyne of Plains, Mont. and director Max Barnum of Lake Forest, Ill. hope the show opens viewers' eyes to the very real problem of being distracted behind the wheel. Balantyne said, "Viewers will come away with a better understanding of how we, as drivers, just don't pay attention behind the wheel." The show points out that cell phones are responsible for only a fraction of the accidents caused by a distracted driver.

The premiere was part of a senior showcase and celebration before commencement ceremonies on Saturday. Students showed their families and friends a variety of projects they've worked on in their senior year at the UM School of Journalism. 

"Distracted: Eyes Off the Road" airs on Tuesday, May 20 on MontanaPBS stations across Montana.

- posted on 05/19/14 -