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Posted at 5:16 PM ET, 12/ 3/2010

Southeast students quiz filmaker on Barry's 'Nine Lives'

By Hamil R. Harris

Even after feedback from premiers, a variety of viewings and the run on HBO, documentary filmmaker Dana Flor got a new perspective on "The Nine Lives of Marion Barry" after she held a forum with a class of Thurgood Marshall Academy viewers in Southeast Washington.

The D.C. public charter school is dedicated to training students for the legal profession. Even though the high school students had not even been born in January of 1990, when Barry was arrested in an FBI sting, they had plenty to say.

"Do you feel that Marion Barry was set up?" Asked one student.

"Do you think that he did drugs for stress?" Another wanted to know.

Then one young man asked "Is there any way that we can view the video of the whole sting?"

"It is 87 minutes!" Flor said.

"That's okay!" the young man responded.

"I get you a copy and a transcript," said Flor who was impressed with the young man's persistence.

"I wanted to hold a forum here because some of these kids are actually in the documentary," said Flor as she walked into Thurgood Marshall. "We're here in Ward 8, where we did a lot of filming. This is Marion Barry's constituency. I would venture to say probably all the kids know Marion Barry. He's legendary, famous and infamous in the community, so everyone knows who he is, and it's the history of D.C."

Flora, a lifelong resident of the District, took seven years to make the movie. People had strong views about whether she even should have made the film.

"One hundred percent of the white people I talked to really despise Marion Barry in a big way, and they were really annoyed that I would give him one single frame," Flor said. "When i talked to African Americans, in general they knew the story, but they were concerned with airing Washington D.C.'s dirty laundry all over again."

Dressed in burgundy shirts and beige khakis, the future lawyers and prosecutors of Kathryn Otrosina's D.C. History class gave Flora a grilling.

"I like the movie," Markieta Johnson,17. "Overall, she included his negatives and his positives. I hear my grandmother talk about Marion Barry. I just knew about the drugs. I didn't know the history behind it."

By Hamil R. Harris  | December 3, 2010; 5:16 PM ET
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