Last week, I was a judge for the statewide Florida History Day competition. Over 55,000 students statewide had competed, as an individual or part of a team, in the Junior (grades 6-8) or Senior (graded 10-12) division in one of carious categories, including exhibit, paper, website performance, etc. The top two in each division and category advanced to the statewide competition. The two in each division and category advance to the national finals in Washington, D.C.
I was part of a three member judging panel in the Junior division individual “documentary” category. As with all categories, the documentary, which could not exceed 10 minutes, had to address one or more areas of the of the competition’s theme: Exploration, Encounter and Exchange in History.
There were six judging panels in this morning portion of the competition. Each panel selected the top two of 9-10 documentaries assigned to them to advance to the afternoon finals for selecting which two would go to the national finals. With six panels, that meant about 54-60 documentaries had advanced from the local competitions. We were told that the documentary category had the most entries of all categories, which reflects the interest of young folks today in visual communication.
The other two judges in my team were a curator from the Museum of Florida History and a young woman who works as an archaeologist with the National Park Service and also teaches Humanities at the local community college and has a Ph.D. in Humanities. One if my undergraduate degree is in History.
The three of us easily agree on which documentaries were in the top three. One was about Bob Marley’s role as “freedom fighter armed with a guitar”; another was about Anwar Sadat’s pivotal role in breaking with the Arab world by making peace with Israel, for which he shared the Nobel Peace prize and was later assassinated; and one was about how the Apollo mission contributed to every day life through the development of fire suits, wireless commnucation, etc.
I and another judge ranked the Bob marley as first choice, so it automatically went to the afternoon finals. I liked the Apollo documentary as second choice but the other two ranked that third, so it lost out. Later, we learned there were other Apollo documentaries, including one that somehow was aboe to get an interview with Buzz Aldrin so our Apollo would have fallen to that. Although it attenmpted to cover too much ground in 10 minutes, the Anwar Sadat entry went to the finals.
Neither of our selections advanced to the national competition. The twp that went were one of the Apollo documentaries and one about the Soviet-Afghan War.
Here is the Bob Marley documentary that our panel selected as top choice: