Bentrice Jusu is as close to a superhero as Wake Forest can claim. However, our resident crusader prefers ripped-jeans to brightly colored spandex, and a film camera to brute strength.
The senior studio arts major not only creates socially and economically conscious documentaries, but she also runs her own nonprofit organization to benefit underprivileged teenagers and the arts in her hometown of Trenton, N.J.
“My love of film started out with my father, he is an entrepreneur,” Jusu said. “He was born in Liberia and came over in 1986. He was homeless for a bit and he was able to do side jobs to get to New Jersey. What he’s doing right now is his own film business and I’ve been working with him since I was about seven years old.
“I feel like now it’s hard to compete with painters — there are a lot of talented painters, a lot of talented sculptors, but film is one of the most effective ways of getting the message out there. And if it’s captivating you can captivate a specific audience. It’s the more modern way of having a voice, having an artistic opinion. You can speak loudly through video.”
And speak loudly she does. Jusu’s films often focus on social and economic inequalities.
They emphasize the problems Jusu sees in society today, especially in her hometown. Currently, Jusu is running her own not-for-profit organization and inspiring teenagers in the Trenton area.
The charity focuses on all the arts, not just film. “I’m always excited about where the teens are going to take their projects,” Jusu said. “They get this new information and then they just do damage.”
Jusu is responsible for coming up with a theme, but the students are given otherwise free rein over the project. Jusu describes her humanitarian work as a “selfless responsibility,” though from the look on her face it’s clearly a passion as well.
In 2011, Jusu received the Building the Dream Award from the Wake Forest Institute for Public Engagement. The award is presented anually to those who embody the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I am humbled by that,” Jusu said. “Everything that I do is not about me. It’s not even considered sacrifice because I want to do it. I’ve made it my role to do for others. All my artistry is dedicated to them. [This award] means I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.” She explained that her goal was to keep students from becoming disheartened by the “idea of Trenton.”
As for her own inspiration, Jusu admires the work of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, whom she deems true innovators. “Quentin Tarantino did not go to film school and he did it his own way. [Film], it’s his passion and I love that and admire him,” Jusu said.
In the true artistic spirit, Jusu claims she doesn’t have a process. “I don’t wake up in the morning and say ‘I’m going to create a film today.’ It’s more so if I just see something. I look at it and then I say ‘oh,’ most of my inspiration comes from dialogue. The process is life.” Her advice to the aspiring filmmaker is simple, “Learn to look. Learn to look past the surface. Look, really look.”
She went on to explain that it’s everyday life that provides the most insight. When asked what she wants her fellow Wake Forest student to know she said, “Support the arts — not just my art, the arts. Art most of the time is overlooked. When it’s done correctly it’s done with passion.”