Final Projects: Spring 2013 Certificate in Documentary Arts Grads

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Still from “Urban Chickens” by Certificate in Documentary Arts student Nick Pironio

Eleven students in the Certificate in Documentary Arts program at the Center for Documentary Studies presented their final projects to the public and received their certificates at an event in May, followed by a reception at CDS. Offered through our Continuing Education program, the certificate program culminates in a Final Seminar in Documentary Studies, in which students finish and present a substantial documentary work, projects that often move out into the world in the form of exhibits, installations, screenings, websites, and more. This spring’s seminar was taught by folklorist, filmmaker, and longtime CDS instructor Nancy Kalow.

View/listen to ten of the eleven student projects below:

JT Blatty | Fish Town (audio and photography)
In the remaining fishing communities of Louisiana, marshlands once mirrored a landscape rich with oak and cypress, divided by a winding road running parallel to a bayou: On one side, fishermen docked their boats, and on the other side made homes with their families. Over the years the countryside has transformed along with the industry: Skeleton trees and empty lots sit between fenced-off industrial plants, and the bayous have become ship graveyards. “You shoulda seen it,” Blatty’s interviewees told her. “This was God’s country.”


Terry Grunwald | Wait! Breathe! Sing! (video)
This profile of Katherine Kaufman Posner offers a glimpse into the power and beauty of opera, an art form currently struggling to find an audience among younger generations. Posner was the youngest-ever winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 1964, at the age of twenty. She is now a sought-after voice teacher.


Christine Harrigan | Chuck (video)
Chuck Negron was one of the lead singers of the popular 1970′s rock group Three Dog Night. A lifestyle of wealth, excess, and “success” led to heroin addiction and eventual homelessness. Hitting rock bottom, sick and nearly dead, Chuck Negron found the strength to become clean and sober, happier today at age seventy than he was when he was young, rich, and famous.

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Jenny Morgan | Pray, Baby, Pray: A Palestine Mix Tape (audio)
Drawing on the writings and life stories of two Palestinian woman writers in their twenties—Tala Abu Rahmeh and Linah Alsaafin, both living in Ramallah, the West Bank—Pray, Baby, Pray explores identity, family, and life and death under occupation for an emerging generation of Palestinian women.


Nick Pironio | Urban Chickens (photography)
Whatever their reasons—eggs, fertilizer source, learning tool for children—owners of “city chickens” believe that “his or her chickens are treated better than those raised in corporate farms,” says Pironio. This exploration of the urban chicken-raising subculture offers insights into the culture of “local” as a counterpoint to the global economy.


Donna Kay Smith | I Think About That Sometimes (video)
Our ideas about people with mental illnesses come from the media and from professionals, seldom from the people themselves. I Think About That Sometimes lets one woman share her story about living with mental illness, for ultimately the ability to tell one’s own story shapes what others understand, revealing one’s truths and dispelling myths. “And only when we are able to hear the stories of others like us do we know that we are not alone—that we are, after all, normal,” says Smith.


Maggie Smith | Benevolence Farm Documentary Project (audio and photography)
This series of multimedia portraits is conducted in collaboration with Benevolence Farm, a transitional living program on a working farm for women leaving prison in North Carolina. Women are the fastest-growing prison population in the U.S. Their experiences demonstrate the need for a multifaceted approach to prison reform and post-incarceration support: an overwhelming majority are survivors of sexual abuse, suffer from substance abuse, and are unmarried mothers of minor children.


Lynda-Marie Taurasi | In Union Strong Success Is Sure (audio and photography)
From 1989 to 2003, a civil war in Liberia left a quarter million dead and a devastated economy. In 2005, democratic elections were held; the new administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf pledged to rebuild Liberian schools and improve child literacy. Taurasi’s multimedia project documents a teacher-training program at two primary schools in rural Liberia.


Julie Thomson | In Search of the Marble Donut (audio)
This project “documents my search for a marble donut like that one I had as a child at the now-closed Anastasia’s Donuts in Okemos, Michigan,” Thomson says. Her quest takes her to donut shops in Michigan, North Carolina, and San Francisco, accompanied by her parents, her partner Spott, and friends. To hear the full version of this documentary, or to learn about Thomson’s other donut projects, visit www.donutgrrl.wordpress.com.


Nora E. Weatherby | Over the Dancing Flames (audio)
The stories in this audio essay include written prose exploring Weatherby’s evolving perspective of home, family, and loss, and oral history interviews compiled from a series of recordings detailing the experiences of her mother and her mother’s two older sisters. “This piece is a conversation between generations, touching on memory and myth within family stories and how they interact with the sense of place,” Weatherby says.


Robert Marshall WellsThe Art of Persuasion (video)
This documentary explores Pi Kappa Delta, the national speech and debate society now celebrating a century of helping educate students, broaden minds, and transform lives. Former Texas governor Ann Richards, broadcasting pioneer Edward R. Murrow, and actor Spencer Tracy are just a few of the prominent Americans who participated as members of the society during their college careers.

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