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MDOCS Welcomes New Storytellers' Institute Director

February 13, 2017

Sarah FriedlandMDOCS announces the appointment of Sarah Friedland as director of the Storytellers' Institute, a five-week signature summer program for documentarians, college undergraduates and faculty that is part of the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (MDOCS). As director, Friedland will develop and promote cutting-edge public and internal programming; recruit participants nationally and internationally; and support Institute members. She will join the program in May for the start of the 2017 Storytellers' Institute, "Space and Place in Documentary Storytelling." 

“I was drawn to the Storytellers' Institute because it offers a unique and much needed space of inquiry, dialogue and incubation for documentary storytellers in a time when it is more needed than ever," Friedland notes. "In the age of surveillance and citizen journalism, the popularity of documentary storytelling has grown immensely, and this growth necessitates rigorous ethical engagement and creative innovation within the medium. I think that MDOCS and the Documentary Storytellers' Institute are at the forefront of this work.”

Friedland on setAn accomplished filmmaker and multimedia artist committed to social justice and a global conversation about stories that matter, Friedland will guide the program to new horizons. With a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and the International School of Film and Television in Cuba and an M.F.A. from the Integrated Media Art Program at Hunter College, as well as several prestigious residencies under her belt, Friedland is well placed to do so.

As a maker, Friedland seeks out projects that are concerned with personal stories that reveal larger histories and intricacies about place and society. Equally important, she brings a focus on big questions and the intersection of the arts with community. "I am interested in the process of documentary storytelling as a means to engage the audience in a life that is removed from their own life. My goal is to break down the barriers of traditional static narrative to explore new means of storytelling that express place and characters in a more intuitive, affecting manner. Ultimately, what interests me is the cultural, political and geographic idiosyncrasies of place and the residual clash that arises between ones’ personal history and the history of a new environment," says Friedland.

Balata Refugee Camp"For me, art is about a deliberate and focused provocation yielding in shifting the observer’s perspective. Ideally, the viewer becomes an active participant in the narrative by shedding their presupposed conceptions—whether hesitation of new thoughts or harbored biases. I hope to accomplish a dialogue that begins with this ‘clash’ and fundamentally ends in some form of unique understanding. I am currently working on two documentary films: Here After, which follows a day in the life of three American cemeteries, and 5 x Lyd, a cinematic portrait of the rippling impacts of displacement, war and occupation on one city in Israel/Palestine. As a member of the Meerkat Media Collective, I am also working on an episodic series called Newsreels from the Resistance, which captures local post-election grassroots social movements in New York City under the Trump Administration." Click here for additional information on Sarah Friedland.

"Faculty, staff and students are thrilled to have a partner whose interest in documentary storytelling and community engagement will expand opportunities for MDOCS and Skidmore, both at home and abroad," notes MDOCS Director Jordana Dym. "We look forward to incorporating Sarah's vision into the program and collaborating with her to strengthen offerings in documentary filmmaking and supporting projects that will have an impact beyond campus and as far away as Cuba and Palestine."  

The institute's Programming Committee, which includes Project Vis Mellon Fellow Nicky Tavares, MDOCS Associate Director and Assistant Professor Adam Tinkle, Festosium Programmer Tom Yoshikami and MDOCS Program Coordinator Jesse Wakeman, welcome Friedland's contributions to this year's Institute, already under way, and supporting her vision as she takes charge for 2018.

In addition to organizing and directing the June Storytellers' Institute, Friedland will teach two documentary production courses each year.

The Storytellers' Institute and its director are funded by the MDOCS endowment from a bequest by John B. Moore and the generous support of the Towne family.