Nilima Abrams is a documentary filmmaker and social entrepreneur with extensive experience in India. As an undergraduate she integrated self-taught documentary filmmaking with coursework, and wrote an award-winning honors thesis on schools and media in India. She also made a film on child labor prevention in India, and went on to complete an MFA in documentary film at Stanford. She has taught kids filmmaking in India, as well as native Vermont and Somali refugee youth, in a summer camp she co-created. Nilima received a Fulbright Fellowship to spend a year in India filming for a feature film and guiding students on THE TENT VILLAGE. Nilima teaches social issue and cause marketing documentary film courses at the University of Vermont. Besides filmmaking, Nilima works in various media to make “good causes” accessible.
Jacob Bricca is an award-winning Tucson-based documentary editor, director, and teacher. He has edited over a dozen feature films including the international theatrical hit LOST IN LA MANCHA, the New Yorker Films theatrical release CON ARTIST, the Independent Lens Audience Award Winner JIMMY SCOTT: IF YOU ONLY KNEW and the 2016 Sundance Special Jury Award Winner THE BAD KIDS. His directorial credits include INDIES UNDER FIRE: THE BATTLE FOR THE AMERICAN BOOKSTORE, which won awards at the Newburyport Documentary Festival and the Santa Cruz Film Festival, PURE, which premiered at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival, and FINDING TATANKA which premiered at the 2014 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and is distributed by Passion River Films. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television, where he teaches classes on editing and documentary filmmaking. He is the author of Documentary Editing: Principles and Practice (Focal Press/Routledge, 2017).
Matthew Cassel is an independent multimedia journalist and filmmaker based in Istanbul. He spent five years covering the Arab world with the Al Jazeera network. His 2013 award-winning film for AJE, IDENTITY AND EXILE: AN AMERICAN’S STRUGGLE WITH ZIONISM, focuses on his personal journey from his hometown Chicago to the Middle East, where he has lived for the past decade. Cassel is co-editor of Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution: Voices from Tunis to Damascus (Penguin, 2013), a collection of essays on the 2011 uprisings by writers from across the Arab world. Cassel speaks fluent Arabic and has spent much of the past two years focusing on the plight of refugees seeking asylum in the EU.
Heather Courtney is a Guggenheim fellow and an Emmy-winning filmmaker. Her film WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM, won an Emmy, an Independent Spirit Award, and a SXSW Jury Award. The film received positive reviews from the New York Times and the Washington Post, and was broadcast nationally on the PBS program POV. It made several Top 10 films of 2011 lists, including Salon’s Best Non-fiction, and was supported by many grants and fellowships including from ITVS, the Sundance Documentary Fund, the United States Artists Fellowship, and POV/American Documentary. Heather was also a fellow at the Sundance Edit and Story Lab. She has directed and produced several other documentary films including award-winners LETTERS FROM THE OTHER SIDE and LOS TRABAJADORES/THE WORKERS, which both focused on immigration issues, and were broadcast nationally on PBS. She has been funded by ITVS, the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, Latino Public Broadcasting, and the Austin Film Society, as well as a Fulbright Fellowship and an International Documentary Association award. Courtney’s film THE UNAFRAID (2018) co-directed with Anayansi Prado, received the Kathleen Bryan Edwards award for Human Rights at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and was the closing night film of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York.
Independent filmmakers have both advantages and disadvantages over journalists in gaining access to documentary stories and subjects. In this 2-hour workshop, documentary filmmaker Lisa Molomot will discuss how she gained extraordinary access to Border Patrol agents, vigilante ranchers, forensic scientists and human rights activists when filming her upcoming documentary feature Missing in Brooks County, which follows two families who are in search of their missing loved ones who went missing after crossing the U.S./Mexico border.
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In this workshop, filmmakers Anayansi Prado and Heather Courtney will discuss their vérité approach to documentary filmmaking, both as co-directors on THE UNAFRAID and on their own individual projects. Using clips from THE UNAFRAID and other films as examples, they will discuss the challenges and advantages of filming vérité. This workshop will give participants a unique and personal insight into the process of a long-term feature documentary project and what’s involved in capturing “life as it happens”.
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Brazilian-American filmmaker Luisa Dantas has worked on a wide array of documentary and fiction projects at the intersection of storytelling and social justice. Her most recent work, LAND OF OPPORTUNITY, chronicles the reconstruction of New Orleans through the eyes of those on the frontlines and asks the question: what kinds of cities do we want to (re)build in the 21st century? The transmedia project includes an award-winning feature film and groundbreaking interactive web platform produced in conjunction with a spectrum of national and local partners in six cities. Luisa also co-produced the acclaimed documentary, WAL-MART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE, and directed and produced the web-series VOICES FROM THE GULF for Color of Change. She teaches screenwriting and documentary filmmaking at Tulane University. Luisa received her B.A. in English and Latin American studies from Brown University and an M.F.A. in Film from Columbia University.
James Klein has been an independent filmmaker since 1970. With his partner, Julia Reichert, he created such innovative documentaries as GROWING UP FEMALE, the first documentary about women from a feminist perspective which was selected for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress; UNION MAIDS, one of the first oral history films and an Academy Award nominee; METHADONE: AN AMERICAN WAY OF DEALING, which challenged government policies on heroin addiction; and SEEING RED, a film about American communists that was nominated for an Academy Award. Klein has also had a distinguished career as a film editor in the independent film community, including such films as SCOUT’S HONOR, about gay discrimination within the Boy Scouts; LION IN THE HOUSE, about kids and their families fighting cancer and a prime time Emmy winner; and the Academy Award nominated THE LAST TRUCK, about the closing of a GM truck factory. He is a founder of the social issue documentary film distribution co-op New Day Films, and retired Professor in the School of Theatre, Dance and Film at Wright State University.
This workshop will survey PJ Raval‘s award-winning feature documentary career focusing on his work as a director and cinematographer. Learn how PJ’s personal upbringing has informed his artistic sensibilities and overall cinematography. The workshop will focus on the question, “How can the camera address who is telling whose story?”
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Lisa Molomot is a documentary filmmaker living in Tucson, Arizona. She has been working in film for over 20 years, directing, filming and editing documentaries. Early in her career, Lisa attended The American Film Institute in Los Angeles where she focused on film editing before going on to edit several fiction and nonfiction films. Since then, she has directed eight documentaries. Her award-winning feature THE HILL tells the story of an immigrant neighborhood in New Haven, CT and aired on America Reframed in 2015. Her award-winning shorts SCHOOL’S OUT and TEACHING IN ARIZONA have had hundreds of screenings and been featured on Slate.com, in The Atlantic, and on NPR. In the spring of 2019, Lisa was a Fulbright scholar at The International Migration Research Centre at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Ontario, Canada where she worked on SAFE HAVEN, a feature documentary about U.S. war resisters (military deserters) who apply for asylum in Canada, and SOLEDAD, a short documentary mixing live action and animation about an asylum case in Tucson. Lisa has taught filmmaking at Yale University and Wesleyan University; she is currently teaching the film course “Visual Storytelling and the Law” at the James E. Rogers School of Law at the University of Arizona, and developing a documentary production course for the online Graduate Program in Human Rights Practice.
Paco de Onís is the Executive Director at Skylight Pictures. In 2011 he produced GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (world premiere at Sundance 2011), a documentary detective story focused on the role of filmic and archival documentation in the prosecution of a genocide case against Guatemalan generals, and launched GRANITO: EVERY MEMORY MATTERS, a companion mixed media project developed to restore the collective memory of the Guatemalan genocide. One year after the release of GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR, the dictator of the title was charged with genocide and put on trial in Guatemala. Skylight’s 2017 film 500 YEARS chronicles Guatemala’s recent history through the perspective of the indigenous Mayan population. Paco also served as the producer on THE RECKONING: THE BATTLE FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (world premiere Sundance 2009), a documentary accompanied by IJ Central, an interactive audience engagement initiative promoting global rule of law, developed at the BAVC Producerʼs Institute in 2008. Prior to that, he produced STATE OF FEAR, a Skylight Pictures film about Peruʼs 20-year “war on terror” based on the findings of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Prior to his work at Skylight he produced documentaries for PBS (ON OUR OWN TERMS with Bill Moyers), National Geographic (SECRETS FROM THE GRAVE), and a range of other programs.
Lindsay Utz’s workshop will focus on how she shaped the award-winning feature documentary QUEST (“a living, breathing, stunning documentary study of an African-American family in North Philadelphia weathering a tumultuous decade”) from over 400 hours of footage shot over a 10-year period. QUEST premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and has gone on to garner the Grand Jury prize at the Full Frame Documentary Festival, and top awards at several other prestigious festivals. Additionally, Lindsay won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing at this year’s Cinema Eye Honors for her work on the film. QUEST will have its 2018 television broadcast premiere on POV.
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Richard Ray Perez is personally connected to the issues presented in CESAR’S LAST FAST. For 22 years, Perez’s father was a farm worker who lived in and worked under the conditions Cesar Chavez fought to end. At five years old Richard joined the historic grape boycotting organized by the United Farm Workers. Prior to directing and executive producing CESAR’S LAST FAST, Richard Ray Perez directed and/or executive produced 4 documentary film series for Brave New films. Mr. Perez is the Producer of Creative Partnerships in the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program.
THE TENT VILLAGE is a collaborative film created by Nilima Abrams and four teenagers in India. The film was a wonderful “accident” that arose from another Fulbright project, and has been screened nationally on PBS and at festivals throughout the US and abroad. THE TENT VILLAGE is about roadside tent dwellers who pick through recycling or sell hair to survive. The Indian collaborators’ unique perspective, which is slowly revealed in the film, is that three of them are originally from the “Tent Village”, with the fourth providing a perspective from a slightly less marginalized section of society. The filmmakers — who had eventually been educated by an NGO — share their own and their relatives’ stories with empathy and nuance, tackling difficult topics like child marriage and caste stigma.
This workshop will be led by Nilima, along with Saritha and Aliveli, two of her youth collaborators visiting Arizona. They will delve further into the participatory process, including how the film came about, and the challenges and opportunities it presented, from both the student and teacher perspectives. They will also discuss broader participatory filmmaking techniques and issues such as basic teaching techniques, privacy and safety, creative control, finding narrative in found footage, and drawing out stories that are “empowering” versus “shaming”.
Now aged 22, this will be one of Saritha and Aliveli’s first opportunities to share about the film. Since its completion they finished school and have been working in India at insurance and consulting firms, and are supporting their families. This is their first travel outside of India and they are very much looking forward to meeting new people and sharing their experiences.
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An award-winning documentary filmmaker and instructor, Anayansi Prado was born in Panama and moved to the United States as a teenager. She attended Boston University where she received a B.A. in Film. She directed and produced the award-winning documentaries MAID IN AMERICA (2004), CHILDREN IN NO MAN’S LAND (2008) and PARAISO FOR SALE (2011) which were broadcast nationally on PBS. Anayansi is a Rockefeller Media Fellow and a Creative Capital Artist, and has received support for her work from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Ford Foundation, and the Tribeca Film Institute. Prado is a Film Expert for the American Film Showcase (2009-present) and works on a regular basis with the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to bring documentary filmmaking training to aspiring filmmakers in developing countries. Prado’s film THE UNAFRAID (2018) co-directed with Heather Courtney, received the Kathleen Bryan Edwards award for Human Rights at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and was the closing night film of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York.
Award-winning filmmaker, interactive storyteller and photojournalist Theo Rigby will present his work over the past decade with iNation Media, creating short-form webseries and feature documentaries about the immigrant experience in the U.S. His current project, WAKING DREAM, explores the lives of young undocumented people across the U.S. who have DACA permits. Drawing on this work in progress, Rigby will discuss project conceptualization, “casting,” producing and distributing short-form documentary media about immigration issues; how to fund short content through crowdfunding, grants, and distributor acquisitions; and non-traditional ways to engage audiences.
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PJ Raval is a filmmaker and cinematographer whose work explores the overlooked subcultures and identities within the already marginalized LGBTQ+ community. Named one of Out Magazine’s “Out 100” and Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” PJ’s film credits include TRINIDAD (Showtime, LOGO) and BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, which follows the lives of three gay senior men, described by indieWIRE as “a crucial new addition to the LGBT doc canon.” BEFORE YOU KNOW IT screened theatrically and broadcast premiered as the season finale of AMERICA REFRAMED on PBS, and was recently awarded the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association Excellence in Documentary Award 2016. Also an accomplished cinematographer, PJ shot the Academy Award‐nominated Best Documentary TROUBLE THE WATER. PJ is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, 2016 Firelight Media Fellow, and a 2017 Robert Giard Fellow.
Documentary editing is one of the most challenging intellectual feats on the planet. One begins with a mountain of shapeless footage and is expected to fashion a fully realized story, complete with finely tuned dramatic arcs, satisfying themes and subplots, and a carefully constructed climax. How does anyone do it? In this workshop, editor Jacob Bricca will share the processes he has developed over his 15-year career, explaining with concrete examples how to find narrative threads, explore and develop subtext, build effective scenes, and get the most out of your material for a project of any size. Drawing on interviews he has conducted with top documentary editors for this forthcoming book, Documentary Editing: Principles and Practice, he will offer tips and techniques designed to make your editing more efficient and impactful.
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Distinguished visiting filmmakers Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis will discuss their work with Skylight Films, an activist media organization committed for over three decades to producing artistic, challenging and socially relevant media to strengthen citizen engagement, human rights and the quest for social justice. Using as an example their recent film DISRUPTION, about a women’s economic empowerment project in Peru, Colombia and Brazil, Paco and Pam will describe their process of collaborating with community leaders, grassroots organizations and NGOs to produce documentaries for social change.
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Theo Rigby is a director, cinematographer, and interactive storyteller based out of San Francisco. He believes in the power of media to create awareness and dialogue about the world’s most pressing social and political issues.
Rigby’s project WAKING DREAM is featured on Indie Lens Storycast, a web series YouTube channel, created by Indie filmmakers and developed by ITVS. His last project, IMMIGRANT NATION (iNation), is a series of short films about immigration in the U.S. including The CARETAKER, THE MAYOR, and MARATHON, as well as an online storytelling platform, and a series of live storytelling events. iNation has been showcased on the New York Times website, nationally broadcast on PBS, and shown at Ellis Island, the 2014 New York Film Festival, and 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The project received a MacArthur Documentary Film grant, as well as a Tribeca Institute New Media Fund grant. His film, SIN PAIS (Without Country), won a Student Academy Award, has screened in over 30 film festivals, and was nationally broadcast on PBS’ independent documentary showcase POV in 2012. He is currently completing a feature documentary on the contemporary Sanctuary movement.
Producer Lisa Stevens has produced several landmark documentary series for National Geographic Channel: OUTLAW BIKERS, UNDERWORLD CITIES AND DRUGS, INCORPORATED. She recently produced CRACKHOUSE USA for Channel 4 and MSNBC, with Academy Award winning (MAN ON WIRE) producer, Jonathan Hewes of Wall to Wall Media and BAFTA award winning director, Anthony Wonke. Lisa founded her own production Company, Green Acres Films Ltd. in 2009. DREAMCATCHER came about after years of nurturing a relationship with the main subjects of the film.
Visiting filmmaker Luisa Dantas will present the interactive online platform she has developed to expand upon her documentary film LAND OF OPPORTUNITY, which chronicles the post-Katrina reconstruction of New Orleans. The workshop will focus on the use of interactive web-based media as a form of strategic non-fiction storytelling to raise awareness and engagement on social issues. landofopportunityinteractive.com was produced in conjunction with a spectrum of national and local partners in six cities, and asks the question: what kinds of cities do we want to (re)build in the 21st century?
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U of A Media Arts (now Film & Television) alumna Lindsay Utz (BA, 2003) is an award-winning documentary film editor based in Chicago. In addition to QUEST, her other credits include the Oscar-shortlisted BULLY (Tribeca FF 2011), FIRST POSITION (TIFF 2011), BUOY (Ashland FF 2013), IN COUNTRY (Full Frame 2014), two Emmy-nominated FRONTLINE episodes (PBS 2015/2016) and multiple shorts for the New York Times. In 2012, Utz was awarded the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship, named in honor of Errol Morris’s late editor. Her latest project, AMERICAN FACTORY (2019), with Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, swept top festival honors, including the Directing award at Sundance, and now streams on Netflix as the first project acquired by the Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions. She teaches Advanced Documentary Editing at Northwestern University’s MFA in Documentary Media program as an adjunct faculty member.
Pamela Yates is a co-founder and currently the Creative Director of Skylight Pictures, a company dedicated to creating feature length documentary films and digital media tools that advance awareness of human rights and the quest for justice by implementing multi-year outreach campaigns designed to engage, educate and activate social change. She was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for her 2011 film GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR, which was used as key forensic evidence in the Ríos Montt genocide conviction in Guatemala. Yates is the Director of the Sundance Special Jury award winning WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE; the Executive Producer of the Academy Award winning WITNESS TO WAR, about an American doctor behind guerrilla lines in El Salvador; and the Director of STATE OF FEAR: THE TRUTH ABOUT TERRORISM, which has been translated into 47 languages and broadcast in 154 countries. Her epic film THE RECKONING, about the tumultuous first 6 years of the International Criminal Court was filmed on 4 continents and in 7 languages and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. She also directed the development of GRANITO: EVERY MEMORY MATTERS, an interactive media project that gathered memories and put them into a public online archive to help restore and repair the collective memory of the Guatemalan genocide. In 2017, Yates completed 500 YEARS, the third in the Guatemalan trilogy that explores the battle for the national narrative in present day Guatemala. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, The Writers Guild of America, the Independent Documentary Association, and a Contributing Editor to NACLA: Report on the Americas.
This workshop, featuring filmmaker Richard Perez, a senior staff member of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, will focus on collaborating with historians and working with archives and archival footage. Later that evening, Perez will present his 2014 film CESAR’S LAST FAST in a public event at the Screening Room. The film is built around powerful, never-before-seen footage of Cesar Chavez’s 1988 36-day “Fast for Life,” interwoven with the historic events that defined the life mission of America’s most inspiring Latino leader and the struggles confronting today’s farm workers.
Richard Ray Perez is personally connected to the issues presented in CESAR’S LAST FAST… »FULL BIO
The screening of CESAR’S LAST FAST will inaugurate DocScapes, an ongoing documentary screening series presented collaboratively by the Center for Documentary initiative and the Hanson Film Institute. DocScapes events will showcase significant new films and filmmakers, and provide an ongoing venue that brings together students, faculty, local filmmakers, and the wider community.