Filmmaker Elegance Bratton ‘14GS Returned to Columbia for an Exclusive Screening of The Inspection

The award-winning writer and director screened his newest film for hundreds of members of the Columbia community.

March 09, 2023

Elegance Bratton ‘14GS returned home to New York last month for a special screening of The Inspection, co-presented by the School of General Studies, Columbia MilVets, and the Columbia Alumni Association. Students, alumni, faculty, and community members from across the city came together at The Forum at Columbia University for an exclusive film screening, conversation, and celebratory reception. 

The Inspection is the auto-biographical feature film starring Jeremy Pope and Gabrielle Union, inspired by Bratton’s own experience as a homeless young man who finds purpose and his own worth by joining the U.S. Marine Corps.

Introducing Bratton at the start of the night was Ebonnie Goodfield ‘23GS, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and Vice President of Columbia MilVets. Goodfield spoke about the contribution of veterans across the Columbia community, and specifically her work advocating and supporting female veterans at Columbia. She went on to welcome Bratton on behalf of all veterans at Columbia.

“It’s hard for me to express how much this really means to me,” Bratton told the crowd once he approached the podium.

Bratton recalled how he was 31 years old when he first arrived at Columbia GS, and that an Ivy League school had previously always been a place he felt he would never belong.

“I spent years trying to do the thing that I’m supposed to do, the things that people told me were the limits for me. That ended up in me being homeless,” Bratton shared. “So when I got the call from GS that I had been accepted, I made a resolution to myself that from that day forward I would indulge genius.”

To indulge genius, Bratton explained, is the belief that you can do the opposite of the limits that are placed on you. “If you see it for yourself, and you’re willing to make the sacrifices to get there, then anything is possible.”

Ebonnie Goodfield ‘23GS

Bratton’s journey to GS was a nontraditional one, having been kicked out of his home at the age of 16 for being gay, and spending years on his own trying to gain his footing. As Bratton told the audience, “I scored so high on my aptitude tests for the military, that I was given three options: intelligence, journalism, or photography.” Worried that the first two options wouldn’t fit his personality, Bratton picked up a camera and a career was born. 

After graduating from GS, Bratton went on to complete his graduate film studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. 

An engaging conversation that followed the film was led by the Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch ‘90GS, who let the crowd know she had seen the film for the third time, feeling incredibly proud to call Bratton a Columbian. 

Reflecting back on his time as a Marine, Bratton shared, “I was fortunate enough to have a drill instructor who said to me that you are valuable—you do matter—because you have a responsibility to protect the Marine to your left and to your right.” 

Bratton says it was that instructor’s philosophy that inspired The Inspection. “That’s why I made this film. I made this film for anyone who's ever felt disregarded and overlooked, to know that you are enough by the end of watching The Inspection. We are all interdependent on one another for survival, and the sooner we embrace that reality, the sooner we can live in a world of genius and appreciate each other equally.”