Supper Table Spotlight: Emmy-Nominated Filmmaker Laura Kissel Honors Modjeska Monteith Simkins

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 6th in our series on Supper Table Artists.

Filmmaker Laura Kissel

Filmmaker Laura Kissel

Columbia native Laura Kissel is an Emmy nominated documentary filmmaker. Kissel’s work explores contemporary social, cultural and political landscapes through multiple film genres, specifically the use of orphan films.


Kissel has nearly 20 films to her name including short documentaries Tan Mian Hua and Window Cleaning in Shanghai which both premiered at the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar in 2011 and were included in The Flaherty’s touring festival City Symphonies in 2011-2012. Her most recent feature length documentary, Cotton Road, is about the global supply chain of cotton; the film follows cotton’s life cycle, alongside human labor, as it travels from farms to consumers. The film has won eight festival awards and been translated into four languages.


Named the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Media Arts Fellow for 2007-2008 Kissel has received numerous fellowships and grants for her work, including a Fulbright Award, a MacDowell Fellowship, funding from the South Carolina Humanities Council and the Fledgling Fund. Currently, she is a professor of Media Arts and Film at the University of South Carolina where she also serves as the Director of the School of Visual Art and Design.


We’re honored that Kissel has joined us in our project. For the Supper Table, she is creating a film to honor the pervasively influential Modjeska Monteith Simkins.


Modjeska Simkins was, as the National Park Service refers to her, “the matriarch of the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina.” She was a leader in African-American public health and social reform across the state, specifically in Columbia. Simkins referred to herself as a human rights activist, and that she was.


Simkins lived a life of power and turmoil. She was the Director of Negro Work for the South Carolina Tuberculosis Association before she was fired for her increased involvement in the NAACP. For this same involvement, unnamed individuals shot at her house in the mid 1900s, despite which Simkins remained unwavering. Any fear she may have had, she did not show, instead allowing it to propel her forward into defending the rights of those who did not have the opportunity to use their voices in the way she used hers. 


Kissel’s film will be unveiled, with 11 others, at the Supper Table’s premiere events at Trustus Theatre this September 6th and Harbison Theatre on the 8th.


On our Kickstarter campaign, at the $300 level, Laura Kissel’s film on Modjeska Simkins is available to sponsor. In sponsoring this, you will become the film’s exclusive producer, plus you will receive tickets to see the films at the Harbison event. 3 of the 12 films are already sponsored, and our Kickstarter only has a week left, so if you want this opportunity, click on the following link to claim it:

 - Christina Xan




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