Black Sun

Project Description
Black Sun is a feature documentary chronicling the lives of two globe-trotting astrophysicists, Dr. Alphonse Sterling and Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, as they conduct time intensive experiments during two celestial events: the May 20, 2012 annular solar eclipse in Tokyo, Japan and the November 14, 2012 total solar eclipse in Cairns, Australia. By studying the solar atmosphere during an eclipse, the scientists gather data that helps to predict when solar flares and other seismic solar disturbances will occur. These Black Sun’s project goals are: 1. To expose audiences to research projects within astrophysics and the ongoing contributions of underrepresented minorities to scientific research in astronomy. 2. To educate the public about the STEM concepts appearing in the film, and about scientific research that takes astrophysicists “into the field” away from their university or office settings. 3. To inspire young people, especially underrepresented minorities, to consider STEM careers. changes disrupt satellites and other electronic instruments we use to survive and thrive on Earth. Black Sun also seeks to inspire America’s youth, especially those in underserved populations. The film accomplishes this by documenting the two scientists’ lives, successes and failures. We meet the scientists in the prime of their lives. We follow them as they engage with students, and each other, in pursuit of answers to their solar research. Black Sun explores how and why the

14 November 2012 Total Eclipse, Cairns Australia

two men became scientists, their opposing paths and personalities, their struggles as minorities in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field, and their important experiments involving the sun.

Background
The 2006 “Survey of Earned Doctorates” reported that from 1997-2006, out of 1,217 total astronomy graduates, only 11 African Americans were granted PhDs in astronomy - well short of their fraction of the U.S. population (12.4%). This lack of presence misinforms young people of color with the idea that no one “like them” can become a scientist. Black Sun seeks to correct this
Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi , TEDxOrlando “How We Know”

misinformation, as well as the myth that scientists are “stuck in a lab,” and that science is boring. Young people, especially, will be able to visualize a life filled with important research and discovery. By following Drs. Oluseyi and Sterling as they view and gather data from the two eclipses, it is the filmmakers’ goal to inspire young people to such an extent that they will seek out their own incredible scientific journeys.
“I grew up in the ghetto... I fought a lot... [Then] I discovered Albert Einstein.” --Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi

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Distribution
Once completed, Black Sun will show theatrically at national and international documentary film festivals, representing a potential audience of thousands. After its festival run, we seek to screen Black Sun in math and science departments at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), as as well as high schools and middle schools—this represents a potential boon of tens of thousands of students and educators viewing Black Sun. Finally, we also hope to debut on one of the major cable or network science programs (e.g. Discovery Science, PBS’s NOVA or Scientific American Frontiers, Science Channel, etc.).
Dr. Alphonse Sterling, minutes after successfully capturing the “Ring of Fire” of the 20 May 2012 Annular Eclipse in Tokyo Japan

Our Request
We have wrapped production in Tokyo, Japan and Cairns, Australia, aquiring amazing footage of the scientists, along with hours of interviews with them, their colleagues, and students. We now need funds to finish the editing, visual effects, sound and music. We are trying to complete the film by June 2013, so we can set up tours at HBCUs, as well as other educational facilities that might want to sponsor screening the film. We estimate that the project will be completed within one year from the start of filming that began in May 2012. For funding purposes, we have created a promotional DVD of the film, which we will send upon request.

21 May 2012 Annular Eclipse, as photographed in Tokyo, Japan, by Dr. Alphonse Sterling

About the Filmmakers
Dr. Jarita C. Holbrook (Co-Director) Dr. Holbrook is an interdisciplinary researcher of cultural astronomy with a doctorate in astronomy & astrophysics (UC Santa Cruz), MS in astronomy (SDSU), and BS in physics (Caltech). Kelvin Z. Phillips (Co-Director) Phillips is an award-winning filmmaker who has written, produced, and/or directed films that have screened at various North American film festivals. He received his BA in Film Directing from Howard University and MFA from New York University. American students should be doing better in math and science than they are now, and we are arguably producing too few college STEM majors. Andrew J. Rotherman, Time Magazine An excellent education remains the clearest, surest route to the middle class. To compete with other countries we must strengthen STEM education. President Barack Obama

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