Ain’t No Back to a Merry-Go-Round

Recipient of a 2022 JFI Completion Grant

When Howard University students sat on the gilded horses of a Maryland merry-go-round in June 1960, the arrests made headlines in the nascent “Sit-Down Movement.” Since 1909 Glen Echo Amusement Park was a whites-only recreation destination for metropolitan Washington. Across the road lay a largely Jewish housing cooperative whose residents jumped into the fray, joining the Howard students’ protest. Despite sweltering heat and violent counter-protesters from the American Nazi Party, Black students marched with white suburbanites for ten weeks. Picketing together led to partying together, union bosses collaborated with student leaders, young people became radicalized, and future giants of the Civil Rights Movement were born. Ain’t No Back to a Merry-Go-Round is a timely cinematic excavation of this little-known Civil Rights story.

Ilana Trachtman is an Emmy Award-winning documentary director/producer. For over twenty-five years, she has created programs for numerous networks including PBS, HBO Family, ABC-TV, Showtime, A&E, Discovery, Lifetime, and the Sundance channel. Ilana believes that true stories, carefully told, have transcendent power to inspire compassion, action, and community-building. Her topics have ranged from the legacy of slavery in Latin America (Black in Latin America with Henry Louis Gates, PBS) to activist Gulf coast shrimpers (Our Heroes, Ourselves, Lifetime) glassblowing programs for at-risk youth (The Arts Advantage, ABC-TV) and the perspectives of transgender parents (The Pursuit, PBS.) Other favorite primetime directing credits include the independent feature Mariachi High and Texas Ranch House. Ilana supervised production on PBS’ History Detectives and Sundance’s Big Ideas for a Small Planet. Through her production company Ruby Pictures, Ilana made the feature documentary Praying with Lior which played theatrically in over 60 cities in the US and abroad. The film garnered 6 Audience Awards for Best Documentary, the Grand Prix at the International Disability Film Festival in Moscow, and was a critic’s pick of The New York Times, New York Magazine, Washington Post, and Philadelphia Inquirer

Completion Grant Year