Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Ann Popkova

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Richardson

Third Advisor

Kelly Wittenberg, MFA


Documentary, activist media, counter publics, mainstream news, criminalization

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


A story told can change the world. Storytelling has been around since the inception of human communication and has been used as a tool to educate, preserve cultural values, and make meaning of our existence. More recently, storytelling has been used in activist and social change movements. One approach to social justice storytelling is through filmmaking: creating films as a tool to disrupt, interrupt, amplify, organize, shift power and create lasting, transformative change in communities. Specifically, social justice-oriented documentary film and media can be used as a vehicle for those who are in counterpublic spaces to argue against mainstream discourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of identities, interests, and needs of marginalized groups. This study will use critical race theory to examine to what extent, if at all, Harry Moses’ documentary, Guilty Until Proven Guilty, is framed as a social justice film, explore the possible ways the film constructs a counter narrative that acts as a voice for those in counterpublic spaces, and analyze the potential similarities and/or differences found in the framing of criminalization of Black men in the film versus mainstream, traditional news media.