Film gives voice to Lumbee people

James Johnson Staff writer

December 21, 2013

PEMBROKE — Recently area filmmakers released online the first official trailer for their upcoming documentary, “Voices of the Lumbee,” which details the socioeconomic history of Robeson County and the Lumbee tribe.

The film, which is set to premier in April at the Givens Performing Arts Center, is a collaborative project between Jason Hutchens, assistant professor of Mass Communications at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Michele Fazio,assistant professor of English and Working-class studies at UNCP. Both are serving as producers of the film, with Hutchens doubling as director and Fazio serving as interviewer.

The hour-long feature has been in development since the fall of 2011, but has only recently started to attract statewide attention thanks in part to a Nov. 27 interview with WUNC’s radio program, “The State of Things with Frank Stasio.”

“We are experiencing a small media blitz, which I didn’t expect,” said Fazio, who though unaccustomed to the attention is thrilled at the chance to highlight a subject she sees as important and underrepresented in the media.

“We hear a lot about the white working class male factory workers who have been displaced, but [with this film] I learned about rural working class life … I knew that these areas existed but I think it is an important chapter in American history. We talk about Detroit all of the time but what we don’t hear about are these rural places in the South that are also hurting thanks to these factories being moved overseas.”

Much of the film’s focus is on the Lumbee people of Robeson County, their history within the farming industry, the shift into the manufacturing business and the effect of that industry’s decline during the 1980s and 1990s, and the danger of the next generation of Lumbee people being forced to move away because of a lack of available jobs. Currently Robeson County ranks as having the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state.

“The idea came from my co-producer Dr. Fazio, who had been overseeing a course where she would take students into the field to interview Lumbee elders about their different work histories,” Hutchens said. “I had been looking for a documentary project for a while and so when she told me about her project … I started putting together ideas in my head. Finally, we met for coffee and I asked her if she would be interested in doing a film and she was thrilled about the concept, so from there we began meeting with members of the tribe to ask permission to use them in our film.”

Both Hutchens and Fazio have ensured that nearly every facet of the production has had student involvement, even recruiting student Alexis Locklear as an associate producer.

“It does so much for the community and gives a voice to our history,” said Locklear, who herself is American Indian. “It has been a great experience and allowed me to learn more about our people’s history.”

For information on the project and to view the official trailer, go to