Fly By Light
is an intimate exploration of young people seeking
to overcome the violence in their lives and create a new path for their
future by connecting to a world outside their neighborhoods.
Washington, DC, where high school dropout rates average 40%, a group of
teenagers participates in an ambitious peace education youth program
that takes them out of their tough neighborhoods and into the beautiful
mountains of West Virginia. For the first time in their lives, Mark,
Asha, Martha, and Corey play in mountain streams, sing under the stars,
and confront the entrenched abuse, violence and neglect of their past.
week-long outing is part of the 9 month Fly By Light program that uses
nature immersion, music, art, conflict resolution, and social-emotional
learning techniques to help young people overcome the trauma, grief and
anger they often hold inside – and that holds them back.
outside their comfort zone, and showered with support from caring
mentors, we witness the city walls come down and their full selves
emerge, armed with a greater sense of life’s possibilities. The film
follows the four as they return home, where each continues over the next
year to face different hurdles and roadblocks they must confront to
build a better life.
The film provides a window into the immense
pain and challenges that many young people carry today, while also
showing their incredible capacity for transformation when given the
support and tools to better understand themselves and their potential,
and to connect with others in a positive way.
I am Somebody, The "I Am Somebody" exercise presented in the film.
- Make it Rain, A positive words exercise from the retreat.
- What do I Need?, The participants learning how to develop compassion.
- I Never Wake Up Angry Now, A sample of participant conversations from the retreat.
- Let it All Go, Mark expressing his story through rap.
- For Everyone, A music video for the song "Fly By Light" that incorporates footage from the film.
Reviews and Festivals"Powerful....An inspiring look at challenges facing many inner-city youth. Their experiences in the program are life changing
as they discover a sense of personal self-worth; practice constructive
approaches to coping; and learn to rely on caring, supportive
friendships, even after returning to the city. "
"A powerful documentary that would be a great resource for grades 9 and up to encourage the transformation that is within us all."
— Green Teacher
"Beautifully put together... Using intensive experiences with nature,
meditation, mindfulness, and vulnerability, the educators hope to give
the teens the tools to break the cycle of poverty and violence. With the
right framing and mind-set, this film could be an empathetic look into
lives very different from other students’, or a reflection for similar
communities that are trying to build anti-violence programming."
— School Library Journal
"A film about an innovative program to get African American youths from
Washington DC out of the city to explore music, the challenges that they
face, 'and the best ways to have healthy relationships with other
people.' Is Fly by Light the cure for America's urban and racial woes?
Not all by itself. But if this handful of city kids is any indication,
it can make a huge difference in lives.”
— Anthropology Review
"Highly Recommended. Fly By Light goes beyond similar projects that attempt to connect urban area youth with nature, placing a focus on peace education and music...Walton fairly represents the acceptance and rejection of the program as students are asked to share difficult emotions they typically push down."
— Educational Media Reviews Online
"Starred Review. This realistic film helps viewers understand the depth of the problems of urban youth."
— Library Journal
“Fly By Light is a beautiful movie that shows the trauma that
young people of color face in America, while also the strength of coming
together, facing your demons and an unkind society, and achieving your
dreams. I highly recommend the film for anyone curious about what so
many urban youth are struggling with, and how to help people move
forward in their lives.”
— State Senator Jamie Eldridge, Massachusetts
“The filmmakers provide a window into the lives and souls of some of our
most vulnerable - yet truly triumphant, beautiful and determined -
youth. It is a privilege and an inspiration to partake in the experience
of this movie.”
— Marilee Aronson, Clinical Psychologist, Washington, DC
“A powerful testament to the commitment that we must have to the next
generation, to give them space to grow, guidance on their path, and
motivation to keep pushing forward.“
— Mikal Amin Lee, Program Director, Urban Word, New York City
“Amazing…inspiring and uplifting. Most importantly, it shares the
stories of some amazing DC youth who were given the opportunity to learn
about making peace, using art to overcome adversity and about using
love to build community."
— Rebekah Mason, Poverty Attorney
"A rare film, one that yanks viewers out of the comfort of their chairs
and into the challenges confronting low-income youth of color around the
country. Yet beyond merely documenting the depressing realities facing
young people today, Fly by Light reveals hope, and the
opportunity for nature, community and art to transcend the seemingly
concrete limits of the urban jungle."
— Shahid Buttar, Executive Director, Bill of Rights Defense Committee
"I showed Fly By Light to the students in my African American
History through Film class. And almost to a person, they ranked Fly By
Light as one of their favorites. Their collective reasoning was clear:
Fly By Light struck that rare balance in documentary film between not
only illuminating a problem clearly today, (but) also providing a
blueprint for moving forward…and in that way, gave them some hope (which
they were desperately searching for) that change - creating better
life opportunities for marginalized young people of color at least – was
— Assoc. Prof. Hasan Jeffries, Ohio State University
Boulder Life Film Festival, Audience Choice Award
Alexandria Film Festival
Albuquerque Film & Media Experience
Bahamas International Film Festival
Capitol City Black Film Festival
Urban Media Makers Film Festival
Legacy Media Institute International Film Festival
Culture Unplugged Film Festival
Maryland International Film Festival
Brooklyn Girl Film Festival
The Northern Virginia International Film Festival