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Rochester students talk about modern woes in new musical documentary

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The cast of "Generation Z." - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • The cast of "Generation Z."
Joyce Jones is perhaps best known around Rochester as soul singer Cinnamon Jones. Now, add film producer and director to her resume.

Her new musical documentary “Generation Z” takes an unwavering look at the major cultural, political, and existential crises of 2020 — the pandemic, the deaths of George Floyd and Daniel Prude at the hands of police and the subsequent #BlackLivesMatter protests, as well as polarizing politics and climate change — from the perspectives of young students mostly born after 2000.

“I said to myself, ‘As an adult I'm feeling kind of crazy right now and unsure with all the chaos. I really would like to know how the kids are feeling. What is their mindset like at this time?’” Jones said.

The film, a collaboration with co-director, cinematographer, and editor Tyler Winegarner, acknowledges the confusion, anxiety, and depression the students experienced. But “Generation Z” also illustrates the creative outlets they use to process their feelings. Poignant interviews are punctuated with music videos featuring spoken word, songs, and dance performed by the students.

During the simple yet infectious pop song “Zoomed Out,” for example, Dahlia Myles sings over a smooth reggae beat about the fatigue and isolation she felt during periods of quarantine, and the reliance on technology to connect with people remotely.

One of the most affecting scenes is a reflection on toxic politics in the form of a monologue by 19-year-old Ryan Northington, a pre-law student at Canisius College. “The election, no matter what year, is a way to divide people,” Northington begins.

Echoing President George Washington’s warning against political parties, Northington speaks against divisive political rhetoric and its destructive tendencies.

“You don’t build a country by spitting on the other person every four years, and then acting like everything is regular for the next three,” Northington says. “That’s not a way to build a country, that’s only a way to break it down.”

The segment reprises something Jones sings at the beginning of the film: “Let’s drop the weight off of our shoulders. It’s time, y’all, to come together.”

For more information about “Generation Z” and how to see it, go to eternalsoulentertainment.com.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY's arts editor. He can be reached at dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.