The Unheard Voices Project is dedicated to collecting and recording the thoughts and stories of working people concerning their occupations and the impact of change on their lives and their families.
As a rule, the working poor and blue-collar workers are marginalized in our society. The mainstream media and policy wonks often characterize low-status workers as inept or passive, stuck in a cycle of poverty through their own lack of initiative or knowledge. This is far from the reality: Working people have wise, honest insights about their lives and the world around them.
The Unheard Voices Project mission has three parts. The first is to capture on video the stories and insights of people involved in traditional workways and professions before they vanish. Some of these, such as commercial fishermen, furniture workers, stonemasons, textile workers, and steelworkers, are being battered by forces of the global marketplace. Others – migrant workers, temporary workers, people making minimum wage at big-box stores and fast-food joints and gas stations – are part of an invisible subculture whose needs are ignored by the powers that be in American society.
The core asset of the third part of the Unheard Voices Project is the hours of videotaped interviews – as much as 100 times the footage that actually appears in our documentaries. It will be part of a searchable video archive, now in the planning stages, that will be available for scholars, journalists, government agencies, and the general public.
A cross-disciplinary venture involving history, journalism, documentary filmmaking, anthropology, cultural studies, and sociology, the Unheard Voices Project follows the protocols established by the Oral History Association concerning the proper procedures for doing oral/visual history. The project is designed to integrate into the field of oral history the tools and interpretive impact of visual – or more correctly, audiovisual– history.
It is vitally important to preserve these stories for the use of anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and members of the lay public– while the witnesses are still with us.
The Unheard Voices Project is a 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in the state of North Carolina. We are guided by a board of directors made up of filmmakers, scholars, and other people interested in sharing the stories in the documentaries and interviews you see here. We are actively engaged in fundraising from individuals, corporations, and university sources.
Of the funds we raise, 100% go directly to film-related expenses or to research into setting up a searchable video archive.
For information about how you can get involved with the Unheard Voices Project, click here.
Matthew Barr (contact)
Matthew has been involved with filmmaking since he was thirteen, when he made his first 16-mm film with a Bell & Howell wind-up camera. He holds a B.A. from San Francisco State College and an M.F.A. from UCLA in film production. He has worked as a still photographer, been a freelance screenwriter, worked on an organic farm, driven a rig cross-country, and spent five seasons with a traveling carnival show.
As a screenwriter, he co-wrote the scripts for two Hollywood feature films, Deadly Blessing (1981) and The Forgotten (1989), as well as other scripts that were optioned but never saw the light of day. While teaching at the University of Miami in 1990, he moved into documentary production with Crimes of Hate, a film produced in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League as a training tool for police departments in recognizing and combating hate crimes. He is currently an associate professor of film production at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where he has taught since 1994.
Cornelia Barr (contact)
After careers as a medieval archaeologist, book editor, and
writer, Cornelia Wright Barr never anticipated working in filmmaking. She quickly learned that storytelling is storytelling, whether conveyed through words on the page or flickering
visual images. For the Unheard Voices Project, she handles marketing and publicity and is in charge of planning and fundraising for the video archive project. She continues to write
on diverse topics, from history and antiques to high-tech
start-ups. She also herds the family posse of two dogs and five
cats and runs a worm-composting operation called the Ladies Who Lunch.