The path to the 2005 Sundance Film Festival for documentary filmmaker and Wright State University graduate Selena A. Burks goes back as far as she can remember because Saving Jackie, the film that brings her to the festival in Park City, Utah, is her own life story.
"The film is about my sister Lorita, my mother Jackie and I," Burks says, speaking recently from her Dayton home. "It's about the process of learning how to forgive someone who has made major mistakes for many years because of a disease."
The sisters were destined for a normal middle-class upbringing in a Cleveland suburb until both parents succumbed to crack addiction. Foster care intervened for Burks and her sister.
In her new life, Burks developed a love for photography and filmmaking, which she pursued further at Dayton's Wright State University. At age 19, she reconnected with her mother, after being apart for six years. Immediately, Burks knew she wanted to make a film about her family. She admits with laughter she never imagined becoming a Sundance filmmaker.
"My father was the first person to mention Sundance to me," Burks says. "He told me it was a festival that gave new voices a chance to be heard — you know, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
A fund-raising screening and support from Dayton foundations have made it possible for Burks to get this far. She's headed to Sundance without her mother, Jackie, who died on Jan. 3, 2004, after contracting Multiple Sclerosis. Jackie never saw the film named for her, but Burks is certain of one thing: "I know my mother is proud of me." — Steve Ramos
CityBeat's 11th consecutive year of Sundance Film Festival coverage begins in print next issue and starts online Thursday with a live blog at www.citybeat.com. The 2005 Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday and concludes Jan. 30.