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March 2022 meeting: Filmmaker discusses 'Iron Grit: The Story That Changed A City'

Jamel Lajuan will talk about Iron Grit, his documentary that explored Birmingham's transition from a Jim Crow Southern city to one that was progressive enough to elect its first Black mayor. This story is told largely through the prism of the events surrounding the death of a 20-year-old Black woman at the hands of a white police officer.

Lajuan is a documentary filmmaker and photographer who was born in Birmingham, Alabama. His birth into the film industry came as a child actor in regional TV commercials and as a young model for magazines. After retiring from playing college sports and receiving an honorable discharge as a U.S. Army combat veteran, Lajuan re-entered the film industry in Atlanta.

There, Lajuan worked on movie sets as a production assistant and as an extra for Tyler Perry Productions, Survivor’s Remorse (Season 2), and on Ang Lee’s feature film "Billy’s Long Halftime Walk." It was while working in Atlanta that a fellow crew member saw Lajuan's passion for film and encouraged him to move to Los Angeles “if you are serious about film.”

Lajuan decided to continue his education with a master’s degree in film and media production in Burbank, California, graduating in the fall of 2016. After film school, he entered a year-long mentor program at 20th Century Fox and interned at Light Iron post production house.

As of today, Lajuan has produced and directed a feature documentary ("Iron Grit"), nine narrative short films, two spec commercials, a short documentary, and an experimental art film. Lajuan’s first feature film, "Iron Grit," won the Audience Award for “Best Black Lens Film” at the 21st Annual Sidewalk Film Festival. The creation of "Iron Grit" helped inspire the renovation of the Bonita Carter Memorial in Birmingham, Alabama, and the 40th anniversary event, held in October 2019, honoring Dr. Richard Arrington Jr. as Birmingham's first Black mayor.

Lajuan currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Los Angeles, California.


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