Director's Note: Jan/Feb 2017
Research-driven documentary storytelling makes a difference, locally and globally.
MDOCS confirms its commitment to excellence in meaningful storytelling with the addition of Sarah Friedland as Storytellers' Institute director, whose commitment to creative, compelling visual storytelling and community justice are most welcome. We're excited to welcome her to lead the 2017 Institute and challenge us to grow and change in 2018 and beyond. Skidmore student participants are brainstorming and planning in Storytellers' Prep. Our faculty participants Amber Wiley (introduced this month) and Diana Barnes (introduced in our next newsletter) will offer a wonderful addition. And we'll be announcing our documentarians-in-residence and Festosium guests soon!
Archive and Documentary
The importance of fact to documentary work is highlighted with courses and programming highlighting the power of the archive to shape, reveal and challenge understanding. Great projects are under way on campus and the Saratoga area. Spring programs and visitors are revealing the importance of archival research for documentary interpretation and storytelling, whether the archive takes the form of documents in collections, human memory or traditional or digital media, and with modes of storytelling ranging from live interpretation to film.
We are looking forward to our March and April archivally influenced visits as well, with talented storytellers who find inspiration in digital and media archives:
- March 6: Alum Teddy Kunhardt, of Emmy-award winning Kunhardt Films, will be on campus to screen Becoming Warren Buffett (2017) a story that brings a new perspective to one of America's best-known investors, which relies on the filmmakers' access to the Buffets' family history, including photos and videos.
- March 28: Tara Merenda Nelson, curator of moving image collections, will lead a dinner talk titled "Artists and Archives: the History of Visual Studies Workshop" (RSVP required). (Co-sponsored with Project Vis.)
- March 29: "The World According to Sound" with Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett, a listening experience drawn on their recordings and radio show showcasing the unique sounds of the world around us.
- April 3: Amelia Wong, Stories in (not Outer) Space from the Getty Museum digital archives (co-sponsored with Media and Film Studies)
Getting off Campus
Connecting beyond campus, a group of MDOCS faculty and students experienced festival programming at Sundance Film Festival in preparation for the first student-curated Documentary Student Festival in January, connecting with Sundance fellow and English assistant professor Cecilia Aldarondo on site. Skidmore News brought photojournalist Chris Arnade, to campus, with an MDOCS-hosted workshop on ethics in photojournalism. Arnade's travels and conversations in Trump country were the basis for a talk that asked "front row" types to think about what life is like for "back row" types and encouraged people at both ends of the spectrum to get to know each other and work together for a better more comprehensive and just society.
Environmental Studies major and documentarian Julia Cavicchi '18 headed to downtown Saratoga Springs to attend a documentary film screening at the Flurry Festival to meet and interview filmmakers and activists who offered a glimpse at the Dakota Pipeline controversy and highlighted the voices taken from 33 interviews of the First Nation people at Standing Rock.
Yasmin Kudsi, '19, sat down with alumna Gaëlle Mourre in London over winter break, learning how this art history and Spanish double major has applied her liberal arts education to a career in filmmaking.
Summer's Not Too Soon to Start Documenting
Clearly, there's good work to be done and the more people creating the documentary record and developing important stories from it the better. Future documentarians-in-waiting can take their first steps with MDOCS' summer classes. Enrollment is open to students from near and far.
And it's worth repeating that thanks are owed to many. MDOCS students, faculty and staff are able to do what they do thanks to many kinds of generosity, including the Towne and Moore families, who have endowed the program and Storytellers' Institute, Project Vis, particularly for support for the Skidmore-Saratoga Memory Project, Jacob Perlow Lecture series which underwrote Rachel Fidler's visit, the college's Advancement team which makes connections to alumni doing amazing work and points us to opportunities close to home and further afield, partners in academic programs who inspire and collaborate, and community partners who work with us to find and tell stories that matter.