February 20, 2015, deadline: Duke University undergraduates have the unique opportunity to join other students from schools across the country in the Fellows Program of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina, April 9–12, 2015. Last year, approximately 150 participants from 14 schools took part in the Fellows Program, which is aimed at educating, motivating, and nurturing students interested in documentary film. In addition to attending film screenings and two master classes, Fellows have the opportunity to network with documentary filmmakers and seek advice that they can apply to their own careers.
Applications are due February 20, 2015. Click here for more information and instructions on how to apply.
The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is a program of the Center for Documentary Studies.
A uniquely Durham, North Carolina, feature documentary by director Ivan Weiss, Leaving Traces, is set to screen at the historic Carolina Theatre in Durham; click here to view trailer. The film documents the documentarians of the widely acclaimed Bull City Summer project about the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team, including photographer/Duke University professor Alex Harris, an instructor at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies and MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts. Along with other artists, Harris will participate in a post-screening Q&A and signing of the acclaimed Bull City Summer book. Click here for more information about the event.
Friday, January 30, 7 p.m.
309 W. Morgan St., Durham, North Carolina
Free and open to the public
Of note: The Bull City Summer project director is Sam Stephenson, who also directed CDS’s storied Jazz Loft Project.
Bull City Summer was produced by Durham’s Rock Fish Stew Institute of Literature and Materials in conjunction with the Southern Documentary Fund, cosponsors of this screening.
The Center for Documentary Studies and the Southern Documentary Fund present a free screening of director Robin Arcus’s Sacred Sound as part of the Fresh Docs series, which features documentary works-in-progress. Following screenings, SDF director Rachel Raney moderates a conversation with the filmmaker in which the audience participates, providing valuable feedback.
Note that while Fresh Docs screenings are free, all attendees must reserve a ticket via Eventbrite, available beginning at 9 a.m. on the day of the event.
Sacred Sound tells the story of one summer week when fifty ordinary American girls learn to sing extraordinary music in the manner of the great British cathedral choirs. Told primarily through two choristers, these young people take to heart the words of the Mass as not mere words, but the means by which humans relate to heaven. The girls rehearse until they are sure they can distinguish a crotchet from a quaver and discover that they are called to lives of service through music and beyond.
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, Ernest Bryant Hernandez, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ernest Bryant Hernandez | The Reel Journey | Video
The Reel Journey, about my struggle to become a filmmaker/producer and an actor, is a behind-the-scenes look at the multiple skills and activities that go into making an indie film. It’s also meant to give future documentarians, filmmakers, and others a bird’s-eye view of what it’s like to produce a film in terms of equipment, set locations, permit requirements, safety, actors, crewmembers, and the inevitable personal disagreements that arise during production. The Reel Journey brings to light several complicated factors I faced in film production, like stunt coordination, how complaints were handled, the leadership of the director, and my determination to keep going despite all the struggles and frustrations. In the end, realizing your vision and that of your actor friends and crewmembers is what makes it all worthwhile.
Ernest Bryant Hernandez was born and raised in Miami. While pursuing his Certificate in Documentary Arts at CDS he wrote, acted in, and produced a TV pilot (Miami Vida) and a movie (Miamiopolis), both of which are currently undergoing a final edit. His goal is to use both documentary and fiction to bring awareness to current environmental issues and to depict diversity and multiculturalism in society. In Miamiopolis, he uses the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan to create a story about misinformation and deception on the part of world governments. In Miami Vida, he brings the diversity and culture of South Florida to life. At present, he studies the Uta Hagen acting method with Marc Durso, director of Act True. He has a Master Certificate in Business Management from Tulane University.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Established in 1989 by the Center for Documentary Studies, the John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Awards go to undergraduates attending North Carolina’s Triangle-area universities to help them conduct intensive summer-long documentary fieldwork projects, for which they receive up to $2,000. The awards are named for revered scholar John Hope Franklin, the late professor emeritus of history at Duke University, in recognition of his lifetime accomplishments and his dedication to students and teaching.
Applicants must be registered undergraduate students at Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. CDS welcomes both individual and collaborative proposals.
Applications for the 2015 John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Awards will be accepted during the month of February 2015 (postmarked no later than Monday, March 2, 2015). Click here for more information and application guidelines.
Images in the slideshow below feature the work of 2014 John Hope Franklin Award winners Diego Camposeco and Shu-Cao. Diego Camposeco’s project investigated the connection between Latinos and the North Carolina landscape through large-format photography, and Shu-Cao Mo’s project created a sustainable art curriculum for children in underprivileged communities in China.
Two 2014 John Hope Franklin award-winning projects are not featured in the slideshow above; they are Katherine Zhang’s long-form nonfiction piece on the gentrification of New York City’s Chinatown and Rinchen Dolma’s video about the prevalence of tuberculosis in the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, India.
The premiere of Zero Irony was enormously satisfying. I watched it in a dream state as predicted, following no sleep on the overnight flight, a day in Amsterdam, and checking in. I was completely wrong about the secular old country vs. the Christ-haunted Southern sensibility I stressed in my first missive. After my film screened, the fourth of five, the lights came up and I was spontaneously invited down front for a quick Q&A—that going on my sixtieth hour with no sleep. The moderator prefaced his remarks by saying that he was born and raised in Northern Ireland, “the Bible-belt of the world,” he claimed, and for that reason the film had struck him deeply. The audience largely concurred, and most of the questions pertained either to the religiosity of the film or the musicality of its presentation (which I likened to Catholic doxology). After the screening I was invited to the bar by my gracious Dutch hosts, where the talk was all film–short film, a niche, but a large, rather aggressive one. I hit a serious wall after one glass of house red, went to bed and slept until 3:30 p.m. the next day.
Hawkins, Rotterdam 2015
On January 29 on the Duke University campus, the Duke River Center and Duke Water Network host “Let’s Talk About Water,” a public event with film screenings and a panel discussion. The featured film is the award-winning DamNation, which screened at the 2014 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, among others.
Thursday, January 29
5 p.m.: Reception with short films
6 p.m.: DamNation screening
7:30 p.m. Panel discussion
Love Auditorium, Levine Science Research Center
308 Research Dr., Durham, North Carolina
Panelists will discuss the environmental, economic and social implications of dams and their removal, and the role of documentaries for environmental education and innovation in society. Panelists include Natural History editor-in-chief and Center for Documentary Studies instructor Erin Espelie, DamNation producer Matt Stoecker, Assistant for Water Resources Policy Robyn Colosimo, and retired Assistant Secretary of the Interior Dave Wegner.
This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the prestigious Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize, awarded by the Center for Documentary Studies. The $10,000 prize is given to encourage documentary work in the tradition of acclaimed photographer Lange and writer and social scientist Taylor, and supports documentary artists—working alone or in teams—whose existing, extended fieldwork projects rely on the interplay of words and images.
Words may be represented by audio or in graphic novel format. Edited oral histories, creative narratives, and poetry (that is both personal and social) are also encouraged. Single artists and collaborative teams working with text/audio/photographs/video/graphic novel format may apply. There are no restrictions regarding age, nationality, or subject matter.
The winner receives $10,000, a solo exhibition at the Center for Documentary Studies, and inclusion in the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Library. The winner will be publicly announced in September 2015; the winner’s solo exhibition will be on view at CDS in fall 2016.
Filmmaker Gary Hawkins, a longtime instructor at the Center for Documentary Studies, is in the Netherlands for the world premiere of his short experimental film Zero Irony at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Hawk will be sending text, video, and still-image dispatches while he’s there. Herewith, his first—words and images (scroll down for slideshow and a link to Dispatch #2 below it).
In the Boeing wide body, flying to Amsterdam where I hope to connect with Charles from the UK for a day in the city, before heading into Rotterdam for the festival. I can’t sleep on planes, no matter what I take. I have a the tiny, pink clonazepam tablet in my pocket (non-addictive) and a plastic cup of aggressively cheap red wine sitting on the tray table next to me, and they’ll relax me into a dream state, but I won’t really sleep for another 30 hours.
My film Zero Irony premieres tomorrow night at 20:15 hours (8 p.m.). The plan is to stash our luggage at a locker in Schiphol and spend the better part of the day exploring Amsterdam on pure adrenalin. I expect to fade somewhere in the giddy meshes of the late afternoon, and almost certainly dream my way through the premiere.
I’m attending tomorrow’s premiere with low expectations and for several reasons. I’m scheduled against two well- regarded features, a dance featuring an appearance by the Russian punk group, Pussy Riot, and most notably, against the first installment of the Short Film Competition (I was not selected to compete).
I’m a little perplexed at my assigned “category,” a 5-film grouping titled, “You Me and It,” an enigmatic title that I’m hoping will make more sense when I see the films. An aside—I almost submitted my previous film, Me and You to the Rotterdam Film Festival, so how about Me and You in the You Me and It category?) The other four films are Endless, Nameless, a dreamy piece about the garden of a high-ranking Thai army officer, A Minute Ago, about one’s inability to hold onto the present, The All-Hearing, about noise pollution in Cairo, and the titular, You Me and It, which seems to have something to do with the cruelty of tickling. I don’t know. Maybe when I see them it’ll all come together. The logline reads, “Unpredictability is the measure of all things. A world in which inexplicable actions, sudden interruptions and noise pollution rule.”
I’m not sure what any of that has to do with Zero Irony, which I fancy a religious film of sorts—religious in the way Melancholia is religious and Ben Hur is not —and now, halfway through a four thousand mile journey over the dark￼￼ Atlantic, I’m beginning to wonder exactly what the secularized Dutch Old Country think this guy from O’Connor’s Christ-haunted landscape sent them. I wondering also—if they’re not picking up on the religious elements in the film, what is it about the film they like? So lesson one to students: the film you make might not be the film they see, but they might like it anyway.
So what isZero Irony? Zero Irony is an experimental film consisting of 11 one-minute repetitions of a single action: an old man looks out a window, turns and walks to an adjoining room where he looks out a second window. As we see this we hear prayer petitions on a religious radio station: “Pray for a woman’s healing with diabetes and bladder problems,” “Pray for a pastor’s two daughters who are living sinful lifestyles,” “Pray for a husband’s delivery from a hateful, nasty disposition.” These prayer requests are followed by stormy indigo skies, ponderous music and the flickering manifestations of faces, representing… I don’t know, deities? The result is as rhythmic and interactive as the doxology of a Catholic mass, which, I suppose, could be stretched to represent the clergy, congregation and Holy Spirit of the YOU, ME AND IT, but I doubt the programmers were thinking along those lines.
However they made their decision, I think it’s funny that my grandfather made it to the Netherlands, because that old man staring out the windows is my mother’s father, Raymond Loflin. I took the shot with an old, wind-up Bell & Howell. I want to say the film stock was either Plus-X or Tri-X, extinct 16mm black-and-white stocks. I asked my grandfather if he would look out the window, then walk casually to the next room and gaze out another window, which he did, but he didn’t just walk casually. He walked with zero purpose, zero regard, and of course, zero irony. When he dropped dead of a heart attack in that very room three days later, I realized that he’d also walked with zero thought of the future, because of course, there was none.
And on that upbeat thought, I’m gonna have to say good-night, y’all.
Hawkins, Rotterdam 2015
The CDS Documentary Essay Prize is awarded by the Center for Documentary Studies to honor the best in documentary writing and photography in alternating years, with a focus on current or recently completed work from a long-term project. The 2015 CDS Documentary Essay Prize will be for documentary writing. The winner of the competition will receive $3,000 and have his or her work featured in Document, the CDS quarterly newsmagazine, as well as in a virtual gallery on the CDS website.
Writer Rachel Andrews won the 2013 prize for “A New Wilderness at the Maze,” her piece on the deconstruction of Ireland’s infamous prison, and photographer Iveta Vaivode won the 2014 prize for “Somewhere on a Disappearing Path,” her photo essay of imagined memories. Click here to learn more about both artists and their work.