A global approach to documentary cinema

A global approach to documentary cinema

The bulk of my work as a research assistant for the Hurford Center’s artist-in-residence, Vicky Funari, is to help her build a portfolio of documentaries from various regions around the world. This is part of an ongoing process for Professor Funari, who hopes to pitch a new class to hopefully begin teaching by the spring of 2018. The focus of the class revolves around the similarities and differences of national cinemas in respect to documentaries. The repository of films and associated readings that I’ve created during the summer is meant to inform Professor’s Funari as to the structure and syllabus of this proposed class. Since the distribution of films has only become more widespread throughout its history, the ideas behind certain cinematic techniques are carried far beyond the national cinema where it is released, prompting filmmakers to adapt and appropriate such techniques when necessary. In addition, film movements that focus primarily on fiction films, such as the French New Wave, can still have immense and noticeable influences on the style and technique of their documentary counterparts. Often times, documentaries can point towards critical aspects of local culture and identity, but beyond that can also inform audiences of the power of globalization, and the dynamic nature of the film medium in general. Springboarding of the heavy connections one can find between films from vastly different regions, I initially made the suggestion that Professor Funari structure the class around thematic similarities between films. I felt it would be more compelling to look into the relationship between films rather than focus on segregating films by geographic origin and contain them within literal...
El Velador: Interview with Filmmaker Natalia Almada

El Velador: Interview with Filmmaker Natalia Almada

On Wednesday, March 16, Haverford students and community members will have the opportunity to view the documentary El Velador and speak with award winning filmmaker Natalia Almada. The quiet, mesmerizing film follows the nightwatchman of a “narco-cementary”, where some of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords are buried. For a sneak-peek into Wednesday’s event, Natalia Almada agreed to a brief interview on El Velador and filmmaking in general. Icarus Films describes El Velador as “a film about violence without violence.” Do you agree? Why did you decide not to explicitly portray violence? Yes, that’s how I describe the film. In part it was a reaction to the mainstream media in Mexico, which is flooded with extremely graphic images of violence. The result of such images is that eventually they cease to touch us. We become numb to their horror and turn away. They also serve to support a discourse in which the perpetrators of these crimes are simply seen as monsters and therefore not human beings who deserve to have rights. It allows us to disassociate the violence from our social responsibility; we are no longer implicated. I believe that the violence we are experiencing in Mexico is a result of our unequal and unjust society—not only Mexican society but global society and we need to make media which allows us to see it, think about it and feel it. My hope I suppose was that the absence of violence in my film would actually allow for a reflection on violence. I was watching the trailer for El Velador on Youtube, and I couldn’t help but notice that many of the suggested videos were news pieces such as “Univision News...
Public Art in Philadelphia

Public Art in Philadelphia

With help from the Hurford Humanities Center’s Summer Research Fellowship fund, I have spent the past couple months fully immersed in the filmmaking process. As a film and media studies major at Swarthmore, I was given the option to do an independent thesis and I immediately jumped on that opportunity. After having worked on multiple documentary projects during my time at Haverford (thanks to the wonderful Vicky Funari), I knew that I wanted to engage my documentary skills and experiences in a topic close to home. Philadelphia has always been an under-appreciated city in my eyes, and having it as a cultural, historical, academic, and experiential resource has been crucial to the development of my thesis. My guiding question entering this project was something along the lines of, “How does public art delineate and/or subvert socioeconomic and cultural borders”. Since the beginning of the summer I’ve been able to narrow my focus to South Philadelphia, specifically the significant Nepalese, Burmese and Bhutanese refugee populations that have accumulated in recent years. Southeast x Southeast is a community resource  and arts center for these refugees, which aims to use art as a vehicle for storytelling and community building. With support from the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, the Lutheran Children and Family Service, and the Mural Arts Program, the project has expanded beyond its initial community events and has become a long term project for artist Shira Walinsky. In addition to organizational duties and teaching ESL classes, Shira has been working on related public art projects, including the soon-to-be-completed Language Lab mural at the intersection of 7th...
Everything you have wondered about WAKE

Everything you have wondered about WAKE

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, spilling 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Four years later, WAKE, a 23-minute documentary, meditates on the continued presence of the oil industry in southern Louisiana. Created during summer 2014 by Haverford’s Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellows Hilary Brashear ‘14, Dan Fries ‘15, Gebby Keny ‘14, and Sarah Moses ‘16, in collaboration with Artist-in-Residence Vicky Funari and Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies Helen White. For those who attended last week’s screening of WAKE, Sarah Moses’ insight will add to experience; and for those who did not attend, her perspective is illuminating. Enjoy! 1) What perspective did you bring to the filmmaking process? How familiar were you with the spill before working on this film? I remember following the spill when it happened, but in a pretty distanced manner. So I definitely did weeks of research for this film. Coming into the project I initially had a focus on the political consequences of the spill, but working with the other fellows and having hours and hours of discussions led to us all blending our ideas together into something that I think is far superior to what we would have dreamt up individually. 2) Have any of your personal consumer decisions or habits changed because of the film? I like to think that I’ve been relatively conscious of the widespread effects my decisions can have. Consciousness and awareness are definitely the first steps to any change. Obviously we live in a very energy-dependent world and I have no intentions of going off the grid any time soon. But I believe that...