Enjoy: Final Projects by Fall 2014 Certificate in Documentary Arts Grads

On a Friday evening in December 2014, eleven Continuing Education students at the Center for Documentary Studies received their Certificate in Documentary Arts. Their projects encompassed all varieties of media taught at CDS: There were five videos, three audio slideshows, two writing projects, and one multimedia website. The students capped off several years of study to come together in the Final Project Seminar class, taught by filmmaker Randolph Benson.

Congratulations to Lomax Boyd, Nancy Crute, Leslie Cunningham, Patricia Daggett, Valeria Elliott, Luke Hirst, Shelia Huggins, Marc Menish, Fay Mitchell, and Trace Ramsey. (Note that some graduates have temporarily withheld their projects from this site, pending submission to film festivals. Projects that are not embargoed can be clicked to view.)


Lomax Boyd
| Becoming Dr. Towers | Video
Scientific training grooms students to adopt a hypercritical point of view. While the fruits of that process are all around us, they carry unexpected and darker consequences for the researchers themselves. Becoming Dr. Towers chronicles the inner conflict of a young Mormon at the beginning of his scientific studies in graduate school.

Photograph by Lomax Boyd.
Lomax Boyd, trained as a research scientist, is fascinated by the complexity of biological systems. Enthralled by the power of documentary film to transport audiences into the lives of others, he adopted CDS as his home away from the laboratory. After completing his Ph.D. in developmental neurobiology, he hopes to use documentary to help build stronger bridges between science and society.
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Nancy Crute | Making Room for What Matters | Audio and Photography
What started out as a photographic inquiry of Bridget the cow became the story of the relationship between Cheryl and the cows that found her, an account of one woman’s conscious choice to love and the bravery to live her truth. Cheryl took a leap of faith and followed her heart from working a job in the computer industry to maintaining a forty-acre farm and living close to the land. As Cheryl began this spiritual journey, influenced by the teachings of the Lakota people, a life of value began to unfold before her. Little did Cheryl know, by making room for what matters, she was making room for the cows to come home. Cheryl’s story is one of grace, love, hope, and respect for the cows, because they matter.

Nancy Crute works as an art-based psychotherapist and emergency room social worker. She has a deep love of photography and of hearing people’s stories. Her career has taught her the gift of truly listening, and so she does.
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Leslie Cunningham | JIG SHOW: Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana | Video
Step Right Up, Folks! America’s most successful traveling show is back! In the untold story of an American jig show, filmmaker Leslie Cunningham takes viewers on a magical journey under the biggest tent on the world’s largest carnival midway to uncover the legend of Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana, the epic black and Cuban musical revue that had a profound impact on North American entertainment in ways that still resonate today.

Photograph by Leslie Cunningham.

Click here to visit jigshow.com

Leslie Cunningham is an independent filmmaker, artist, writer, and owner of TRIBES Entertainment, a digital media and film production company based in Durham. Her films include M.I.: A Different Kind of Girl, Triangle Black Pride, and Domestic Violence: Healing Through Spoken Word. JIG SHOW: Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana is her second feature-length documentary.
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Patricia Daggett | The Sand Hill Incident | Writing
The Sand Hill Incident is based on the brief memoir of a young teacher in rural Georgia who found herself at the center of a short-lived political crisis in the mid-1940s because she dared to teach contemporary scientific research in support of racial equality.

Pat Daggett recently retired after nearly forty-five years in the computer industry. In 2002, she decided to make better use of the other side of her brain and pursued a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree at Duke University, where she discovered a talent for historical research and rediscovered a love of writing. Upon completing her master’s, she enrolled in the Certificate in Documentary Arts program at CDS with the goal of using personal stories as a lens through which to view larger events in the history of the American South.
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Valeria Elliott | The Mokovi Project | Multimedia
One of the easiest and quickest ways to learn a second language is to connect to stories. Mokovi is an online platform for practicing Spanish through video stories featuring Spanish speakers living in the United States. My goal is to create an online community that can immerse language learners in the Spanish language and culture regardless of whether they plan to travel abroad or regularly have personal interactions with native speakers. I believe that learning a second language is a transformational experience that helps us embrace other cultures and better understand the human experience. Filmmaking is the perfect vehicle to make language learning accessible to a wide range of people, regardless of their formal education or ability to travel.

Photograph by Valeria Elliott.
Click here to see the Mokovi website

Valeria Elliott is a documentarian and educator who uses video and multimedia in innovative and engaging programs to teach Spanish. A former international lawyer turned social entrepreneur, she earned a Master of Arts in International Affairs degree from Ohio University, an LL.M. in American and Comparative Law from the University of Denver, and a J.D. from the Universidad Nacional del Litoral in Argentina. She has been a visiting scholar at University of California–Berkeley and the University of Colorado College of Law. She has spoken on issues of foreign language acquisition and cross-cultural skills at conferences in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Her teaching and academic work have been featured on TV and radio, including Univisión and Colorado Public Radio, as well as in print media such as U.S. News & World Report and the Associated Press.
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Luke Hirst If There Is Such a Thing | Audio and Photography
If There Is Such a Thing is a series of portraits and oral histories of Triangle residents who identify as lesbian, gay, queer, or transgender. The selections in this presentation focus on the words the participants use to describe themselves. Their reflections offer a glimpse into the myriad ways people take on (and reject) identities. These stories of (often obligatory) self-categorization complicate the common perception of a singular, “born this way” LGBTQ community consisting of lives that can be summed up in a letter of the acronym. As one participant said: “We use this word ‘community’ as if there is such a thing.”

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Luke Hirst has been taking classes at CDS off and on for the past fourteen years and has explored the genres of film, photography, writing, and oral history. Luke strives to create collaborative projects that foster connection and hope. Luke has recently used documentary skills as the oral history coordinator for the Heirs to a Fighting Tradition project and as cofounder of an initiative with the mission to collect and share Durham’s vibrant LGBTQ history.
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Shelia Huggins | Remnants and Revival: A Conversation in Images | Audio and Photography
I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t remember my parents mentioning anything about it. I only knew that the neighborhood I grew up in was changing, and I knew I had to capture it.

Shelia Huggins has been photographing places for almost thirty years, starting in the 1980s with pictures of the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Since then, her portfolio has grown to include cities like Chicago, New York, and Boston. Now she has returned home to capture the transformation taking place in Greenville, North Carolina, as the development of a transportation corridor changes the landscape of the community. Interested in what she calls the “genealogy of place,” with Remnants and Revival she shares pieces of the past and hope for the future.
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Marc Menish | Dance of the People: Spirit of the Green Grass Cloggers | Video
Prior to 1971, most precision clogging teams in North Carolina performed in a similar traditional style. The Green Grass Cloggers, founded by East Carolina University students, sidestepped many staid conventions and sparked a shift within the greater clogging community. Forty-four years on, with some of its members facing physical decline, it is clear that younger dancers are needed to maintain the Green Grass legacy—dancers with their own sense of what it means to be a clogger. This documentary explores this pivotal point in the team’s rich history.

Menish jump scene.Still002
Marc Menish, an associate professor of interdisciplinary cultural studies in Japan, came to CDS motivated by a strong desire to incorporate nonfiction film techniques in his university classes. Duke’s proximity to the southern Appalachian region, with its robust musical and dance traditions, inspired him to seek out a story that demonstrates the powerful hold these traditions have on their followers. (Bonus: He can now play “Cripple Creek” on a five-string banjo with his daughter, Clara, on the fiddle.)
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Fay Mitchell | Artistry and Athletics  | Video
Athletes are much admired and celebrated in our sports-steeped American culture, but one group of athletes is much less widely adored. This film explores the question of whether dancers are indeed athletes and examines the reasons for the larger public’s disconnect with these performers. Long years of training, discipline, and focused effort are required of both dancers and sports competitors, but the rewards, and renown, are very different. A collection of participants and observers from the worlds of dance and sports discuss the similarities and differences between the two realms and raise the question of whether athletes should be considered artists. See what conclusion you reach.

Fay Mitchell grew up in rural eastern North Carolina and attended UNC–Chapel Hill, where her interest in sports was fueled by the Carolina/Duke/N.C. State rivalries. Her subsequent experience of the arts in an academic setting, and later the arrival of the American Dance Festival in Durham, made her keenly aware of the differences, in terms of composition and intensity, between sports and dance audiences. In her work as a radio reporter, she discovered that seemingly disparate groups are often quite similar, though they cling to ideas of the “other.” This project’s exploration of the commonalities between notionally distinct individuals and groups reflects her role as a “synthesizer.” She came to CDS in 2010 to expand her reporting to the world of film.
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Trace Ramsey | Carrying Capacity | Writing
Carrying Capacity is a book of essays about ancestral mythology, recovery from depression and substance abuse, and the disintegration of generational memory in the absence of physical evidence. Each of the chapters is both standalone and cumulative, built of memoir-style vignettes and named after streets the author has lived on during the past forty years. Carrying Capacity is strongly personal and reflective with the author, his partner, and their young child as its core.

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Trace Ramsey is a writer and photographer. He lives in East Durham with his partner, Kristin, and their child, Tennessee. He writes the nonfiction essay zine Quitter, which has been compiled into the compendium Quitter: Good Luck Not Dying and published by Pioneers Press. Trace is not a talker.

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