Unfiltered: The Truth About Oysters

Directed by Joshua Bryan McLawhorn


Fri Apr 12, 2024 – 5:00 pm | Hendricks Arts Center
Sat Apr 13, 2024 – 2:30 pm | Bagels & More

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Unfiltered: The Truth About Oysters

Directed by Joshua Bryan McLawhorn
Documentary Feature
United States | 88 min | 2023

Ninety percent of the world’s ancient oyster reefs have collapsed in the last thirty years. Faced with the human pressures of coastal development, pollution, reduced freshwater flow, and overharvesting, the renowned oyster reefs in Florida’s Apalachicola Bay are now slipping toward the same fate.

Oysters have long been the silent protectors of the oceans, cleaning water and building the foundation of estuaries where thousands of species thrive, from plankton to game fish. They are living water filtration systems, storm barriers, and an ancient source of protein.

The fate of oysters in Apalachicola Bay is not sealed. Fresh water management, artificial reefs, shell recycling, and other restoration strategies may be able to save the world’s oyster populations from complete collapse. It’s not too late.

ULTIMATE CITIZENS is not a movie about Frisbee. The “flat ball” is one of many tools that Jamshid Khajavi, the film’s protagonist, uses in his work as a primary school coach and counselor. A fiery, funny 65-year-old Iranian immigrant and ultra-athlete, Jamshid does some of his best work on the playing field with his students, the children of refugees and immigrants.

In a season of healing, Jamshid coaches two intrepid 11-year-olds, Nyahoak, whose South Sudanese parents came to the U.S. as refugees, and Pio, whose Samoan parents wanted a better a life, but experience homelessness. Jamshid teaches the kids about life on their way to compete in the world’s largest youth Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

The story unfolds at Hazel Wolf K-8 School in Seattle, a city known for its high-tech companies and $7 coffees. It’s also an America where many families quietly struggle to afford housing and survive.

Jamshid’s efforts to build community where all kids can thrive are intimate and heroic. In this story, it’s the parents who work low paying jobs around the clock, and their first-generation Americans kids, who become champions long before the tournament even begins. They save themselves, with a little help from a compassionate counselor in a supportive school.

At a time when schools are on the frontlines of America’s culture wars, some politicians and parents are fighting the work of counselors like Jamshid. He teaches social emotional learning and sex education. He talks with families about grief and loss, and helps remove barriers to learning and belonging.

Today there are roughly 100 million forcibly displaced people around the world – more than at any time in modern history. The plight of these asylum seekers is increasingly met with anti-immigrant policies and violence. This film showcases the potential of what immigrants like Jamshid and his students can bring into our communities instead of viewing asylum seekers as a drain on resources.

Underneath the “David vs. Goliath” tournament narrative that builds toward the film’s climax, this documentary offers an antidote to “us versus them” political headlines with a heartwarming vision of a more welcoming America. You often hear Jamshid saying to people, “I’m so glad you’re here,” and he means it. For almost 40 years, Jamshid has taught children how to be “ultimate citizens” – to look out for themselves and each other, and to choose inclusion over exclusion. He and the kids show how to do the hardest work of all – to find their way forward, together.

UNFILTERED: The Truth About Oysters - Poster

UNFILTERED: The Truth About Oysters - Joshua Bryan McLawhorn

Joshua Bryan McLawhorn

Unfiltered: The Truth About Oysters is Josh’s debut feature-length documentary. A member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Josh’s work as a cinematographer and editor has earned eight Suncoast Emmy Awards. He operates Level Up Digital Media, a firm which produces commercials, corporate and nonprofit films, and television programs.

Josh’s 2014 short film Almost Ready won first place nationwide in Nikon’s Everyday Cinema Contest, and his commercial work has earned several Gold Addy Awards at the Tallahassee chapter of the American Advertising Federation, including a Judge’s Choice Award in 2016, and an FPRA Image Award in 2019.

The topics addressed in Unfiltered: The Truth About Oysters are close to home for the inhabitants of coastal communities around the world, and Josh is no exception. A native of Florida’s panhandle, he grew up eating oysters harvested from the Apalachicola Bay estuary and swimming in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. He hopes Unfiltered: The Truth About Oysters will attract public and political interest to the ecological crisis facing oysters, and help supercharge reef restoration efforts.

Film Information

Director: Joshua Bryan McLawhorn
Country: United States
Year: 2023
Language: English
Runtime: 88 min
Rated:  G


Producer: Chucha Barber
Writer: Joshua Bryan McLawhorn, Chucha Barber
Editor:  Joshua Bryan McLawhorn, Gabriela Rodeiro
Animator: Gabriela Rodeiro
Key Cast:
  Mark Kurlansky, Richard Bickel, Art Smith

Connect With This Film

BIFF - Beloit International Film Festival
BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival