“You Will Not Replace Us”

“You Will Not Replace Us”

April 2, 2024
Mary Grace Gallagher

Luke Harris and Josh Greene were dorm-mates at USC when they began collaborating on film school projects. Living in the same dorm, learning in the same classes and experiencing the hardships of the pandemic together led them to discuss ways that their unique heritage and cultures have fortified them. They teamed up to win last year’s Annapolis Film Festival Shorts Challenge, promising to present a documentary examining the fraught fault lines between America’s Black and Jewish communities in a project they called “They Will Not Replace Us.”

Now they’re “counting the days to Annapolis” says Greene, who says they are “sitting on a really special film and it’s like a secret right now that nobody has seen.”

Greene, 24, presented his short documentary, “Waves Apart,” about anti-semitism in the surfing community in last year’s Jewish Experience Showcase. Though he does not practice his Judaism, he considers himself “as Jewish as anybody can be.”

Harris, who is also 24, grew up in New Orleans attending Jewish schools where he was once confronted by a classmate who asserted that Jewish people had historically faced more hardship than Black people. It’s a trope that has been weaponized for centuries in an attempt to divide the two marginalized communities and it stuck with Harris, who is Black.

“It definitely triggered me at the time and made me think: What’s the goal of comparing historical traumas?” Harris said. “It’s a pointless conversation about who had it worse. There’s no benefit to it. We’d like to use this film to instead highlight and talk openly and honestly about our communities and help build a bridge between the two.”

Not only do the friends co-direct their new short, they are also the central narrators and protagonists who use their personal connection to probe the deeper issues that often divide.

“You could say the biggest challenge with any documentary film is trying to predict where the story will go,” said Green, who, with Harris, was able to find diverse voices for the film, including pastors, rabbis and some interviewees who are both Black and Jewish. “Without spoiling anything, we came up with some pretty big ideas at the end of the movie that go beyond traditional, interview-based documentary.”

Over the past year, they had to overcome issues of their own geographical division, with Harris scheduling trips to Los Angeles for filming and both logging hours of Zoom interviews. But they hope their movie sparks a broader conversation.

“Whether it becomes a longer movie or even a series, we’re really curious to see how audiences will react for the first time,” Greene said. “Even if viewers aren’t Black or Jewish, they represent the real demographic we want to engage. We think people will be able to connect with the movie’s more universal themes.”

The filmmakers kept last year’s challenge theme of “Unity” in focus, which became all the more relevant in a world roiled by the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and with partisan rhetoric gearing up to what promises to be a fraught election year.

“We worked really hard on the theme of unity,’ Harris said. “And that is something that really transcends this film and something that we really didn’t always see a lot of reminders of…In these times and periods, we have to remember the idea that all of us are in this together.”

Short Film: "You Will Not Replace Us"
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Short Documentary 24 min.