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Student Movie Stars Headed for Cannes Film Festival

"Skip Day" characters (l. to r.) Jamelia Burrows and Na'Kerria Nelson
Tom Flanigan

Two Tallahassee college students are heading to France's Cannes Film Festival May 14. They're going because of their roles in a documentary on high school life in South Florida that will be screened during the world-famous cinematic celebration.

These two new movie stars are:

"Jamelia Burroughs, a 2nd year pre-pharmacy student at FAMU from Pahokee, Florida," and "Na'Kerria Nelson, a 1st year nursing major at Tallahassee Community College from Pahokee, Florida."

Although now attending two different schools in Tallahassee, both Burroughs and Nelson attended Pahokee Middle/Senior High School in the tiny town of Pahokee on the shores of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County. In recent years, that school and its largely African-American student population has become fertile fodder for filmmaker Patrick Bresnan whose base of operations is West Palm Beach. He's made a number of short documentaries featuring school customs and rituals, such as last year's "Prom" and this year's sequel, which Burroughs says was entitled "Skip Day."

"It's a tradition," she pointed out. "We have senior skip day after prom that Monday, so instead of doing prom this year like they did last year, they wanted to see how skip day was going. So me and a couple of friends got ready at my house and they filmed the entire thing."

Nelson also had a part in this flick. She was was the girlfriend of the male student who eventually wound up with Burroughs.

"I really didn't think that I was going to be in the film as much as I was in the film," she grinned. "Because I thought that it was about him (the boyfriend). I didn't know I was in the film as much as I was being the girlfriend."

Seasoned film performers that they are, Burroughs said it still came as a real shock when Bresnan announced that "Skip Day" was being shown at this year's Cannes Film Festival and that the Pahokee students who appeared in the movie would be flying to France.

"I was excited!" she exclaimed. "Not only was I going to France, but it's about a film that I was in!"

Nelson said Bresnan and her mom conspired to withold the news from her until they knew it would have the most impact on her.

"At first I said, 'Huh? Are y'all for real?!' she remembered. "And they were like, 'Yeah, we're serious!'" And I didn't take them serious until Patrick sent me the tickets and I was like, 'Oh my God! This IS for real!!!'"

Burroughs and Nelson will depart the U.S. for the Festival this coming Monday. Both say their lives have already been deeply impacted by their movie making experience and that they wouldn't hesitate to try roles in other films should the opportunity present itself again.

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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