Back Story

5 guys. 5 cameras. 1 city.

Back Story is a documentary created by the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies that examines what it feels like to be a Black male living in America. Five young Black men from different backgrounds and areas of New Orleans, LA filmed their lives for six months and share their views on everything from education to criminal justice. Mixed in with archival footage, interviews at recent civil rights events and with civil rights leaders Marc Morial and Al Sharpton, this documentary provides a glimpse into the variety of expression of Black maleness in the United States.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict, the staff at the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies (IWES) felt the need to create a project designed to change the distorted perception of young Black men in America, and do so through a compassionate lens. With over 15 years of media production experience, IWES staff created a documentary film following five Black males (ages 15-19) from varying backgrounds in the Greater New Orleans area over a six month period. Tracing their early experiences to their future goals and aspirations, Back Story was created to show the true experiences of Black males through their own eyes.

Starting in September 2013, the young men were provided with cameras to document their lives and reflect on their every day experiences. The guys come from different parts of the city and have a range of educational backgrounds, allowing viewers to get a glimpse into the breadth of the Black male experience. In addition to the footage gathered by the young men, staff traveled to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to collect footage and insight from Black men attending the event. Staff also interviewed civil rights leaders Marc Morial, former New Orleans Mayor and National Urban League President and CEO, and Reverend Al Sharpton, National Action Network founder and President.

about the filmmakers

IMAN SHERVINGTON - Director, Editor, Cinematographer

Iman is the Director of Media & Communications at the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies. She received her BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations (2005) and her Masters of Fine Arts in Directing from Columbia University (2010) with a concentration in Directing and Screenwriting. Through IWES, Iman utilizes her script development, cinematography, directing, producing, and editing skills and has created over 50 short films and PSAs (four of which have won awards), a web-series, a feature-length documentary, and an award-winning podcast. These films have been screened in five local and national film festivals, and she has presented at eight conferences (sometimes jointly with youth from IWES programs) to showcase her work. Recently, Iman led the development of a public will campaign to advocate for more Trauma Informed Care services for traumatized youth in New Orleans, In That Number. In 2016 she was selected as a participant in Spitfire's Executive Training Program, and was selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leader in its inaugural cohort. She also oversees all of IWES’ social media accounts and communications. Iman has further experience in graphic design, photography, curriculum development, focus group facilitation, positive youth development, participatory action research, and media literacy.

CHLOE WALTERS-WALLACE - Producer, Cinematographer

Chloe is the Media & Communications Manager of the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, bringing her background in Visual Anthropology to this position. Chloe has worked in film from a very young age, yet developed a particular passion for documentary film as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow at Barnard College. She pursued this interest by obtaining a certificate degree in Documentary Media Studies from the New School for Public Engagement in 2008. Before gaining her MA in Material & Visual Anthropology from the University College London in 2012, Chloe worked in New York and Jamaica both in the non-profit world at the Tribeca Film Institute as well as freelance with several commercial and documentary production companies. She has experience in cinematography, research, translation, production coordination, editing, producing and project development.


Founded in 1993, the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies is a national, non-profit public health organization that creates initiatives to heal communities. Through community-driven research programs, training, advocacy and partnerships, IWES helps to build emotional and physical well-being, resilience, and capacity among women, their families, and communities of color, especially those whom are disadvantaged.

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Back Story stars Dedric Alexander, Ephraim "EJ" Hall, Tyree LeBeau, Jeremy Tauriac, and Daniel Wright.