The third annual Stronger Than Fiction Film Festival is a showcase of the work of the students graduating from the Documentary Journalism interest area. Fourteen students will be showing short documentary films over three different blocks—with each block showing completely different films. The students’ ideas for these films were approved by an outside panel of documentary professionals last spring and they have spent the last year making these films. This will be their world premiere before they go off for submission to film festivals all over the country and beyond.
The screenings take place at the historic Missouri Theatre, giving us an enormous screen and terrific sound system on which to play the films. The blocks of films start at 2 pm, 4 pm and 7 pm. Each last around 90 minutes, with films and a Q&A with filmmakers at the end of the block. Following the 7 pm block there will be an awards ceremony recognizing the best student films as judged by a New York-based jury of filmmakers and critics. The entire list of films in each block is listed below.
Admission to all films is free. There are no tickets. Just walk right in, sit down and watch.
Please share with your students, friends and family. We’d love to see as many people as possible come out and see the students’ work.
Stronger Than Fiction Film Festival 2019
May 15, 2019
Free and open to the public
Block A: 2:00 pm
All These Marks
Directed by Grace Noteboom
All These Marks is about choices, unexpected regret and grappling with an identity that no longer fits. In a tiny tattoo shop in Springfield, Missouri, men with hate tattoos confront the choices of their pasts as they attempt to make a better life for themselves and the people they love. The film is a look at the uncomfortable—but honest—question of who gets a hate tattoo and why they want it gone now.
Directed by Larissa Babiak
In an impoverished region of southwest Guatemala, caring, enthusiastic educator Nimsy Ramos leads an innovative high school sex education program. Set against a backdrop of high teen pregnancy rates in the community, Nimsy teaches lessons focusing on goals and dreams, relationships and romance, abstinence, contraception and sexually transmitted infections. With an observational, emotional and character-focused style, Grandes Decisiones presents the program as a hopeful step toward empowering teens in the community to address their futures.
That One Time I Went Hunting with Dad
Directed by Connor Laughlin
Telling a story of fatherhood, a young college student seeks to grow closer with his father while they both deal with personal loss. He follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfathers to learn what has kept duck hunting in their family for more than 50 years. The two grow closer as they spend a month hunting together, revealing what it means for them to be father and son.
The Lost Cause
Directed by Devine Utley
As one of the 11 states to secede from the Union during the Civil War, North Carolina is still grappling with its problematic history. With more than 100 monuments to the Confederacy across the state, lawmakers in Raleigh are forced to reckon with their own Confederate memorials on the State Capitol grounds. The Lost Cause follows the debate regarding the decision to relocate the monuments while exploring historic Raleigh and its ties to the war.
Jack (and Joe)
Directed by Jane Arnot
Jack (and Joe) is an intimate look at the life of Jack through the lens of his twin brother. Jack and Joe are 25. Jack has a non-verbal form of autism. Joe moved away, graduated from college and left Jack behind. As Joe watches the footage of his twin, he reflects on their relationship. How can Jack grow as a person while being stuck at home and what does it feel like to have a twin with whom you can never actually converse? These are thoughts that prompt Joe to narrate the observational footage and provide clarity for the image of his brother.
Block B: 4:00 pm
Mothers & Brothers
Directed by Emily Dunn
A young filmmaker undergoes the process of genetic carrier testing for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative disease carried by women that only manifests itself in their male children. For carriers, there is a 50 percent chance a son will develop the disease, and a 50 percent chance a daughter will also be a carrier. From attempting to make sense of a family’s past, to tackling the future as a young woman, this intimate film delves deep into the promises and threats of motherhood as shaped by genetic disease.
Two Petty Criminals, Not Worth Naming
Directed by Davis McCondichie
This film intends to show the audience who writes our history. By exploring images and stories of the town of Fayetteville, Georgia, the filmmaker attempts to intercede in the past and find what aspects of this small southern town go undiscussed. By focusing the narrative on the historic courthouse firebombing of 1982, the film finds a way to create its own authorship on the past—and possibly the future. The film explores themes of heritage, gatekeeping and above all else, who gets to tell the stories we hold onto for the years to come.
Native and American
Directed by Taylor Hensel
The prosperity of America has been the antithesis of Native American progress. As the philosophical and cultural rift between indigenous and American ways of life widen, individuals who are both Native and American face a jarring juxtaposition. Native and American follows Holly Spaude as she confronts her mixed heritage and seeks to define her identity within her tribal community. While navigating her tribe’s blood quantum standard and working to help preserve the endangered Potawatomi language, Holly has come to know her purpose.
Directed by Yuxuan Jia
While giant pandas play in front of the live webcams to the delight of many around the world, other animals are facing a survival crisis with no one watching. Humans have a bias toward cute, fluffy and charismatic animals, but Earth has a living population made up of more than just cute faces. This documentary addresses how humans can help endangered animals and what we can learn from the giant panda’s successful PR campaign.
Directed by Sam Roth
When George Scott, a military veteran and Lutheran pastor in rural central Pennsylvania, took a leave of absence from his congregation to run a competitive race for U.S. Congress in 2018, he energized the Democratic base while creating an uncertain future for his congregation. Including everything from a controversial gun ad to a sudden spike in national attention, Holy Fire roots us firmly at the center of the campaign drama as the outcomes of George’s decision manifest on Election Day.
Block C: 7:00 pm
Directed by Matt Swing
A few weeks after finishing parole, Antonio Brison returns to the spot that changed his life forever. Now an actor and performer, he transfers the skills that he uses on stage to tell a story that hits closer to home: his own. Pairing Antonio’s natural storytelling ability with emotionally provocative cinematography, this film leaves no room for the viewer to draw conclusions from anything else other than the words and emotions that Antonio presents.
Directed by Olivia Jacobson
Courtney Sims has always had a soft spot for troubled horses, so working at a horse rescue ranch is a dream come true. Courtney spends her days retraining abused and abandoned horses to find them their forever homes. Her job is incredibly demanding and when her career is threatened, Courtney will have to make a serious choice: stay in the world she loves or move on and find a new dream.
Directed by Bailey Synclaire
An archival documentary about the multigenerational relationship between three women—including the one who raised the filmmaker. Dorothy was a single mother to Lori back in the ‘70s. When Lori was little, she raised herself as her mother struggled with alcoholism. To keep her life on track, Dorothy moves in her daughter and begins the process of rehabilitation. Dorothy helps raise her grandchildren until her death. To keep the memories of the family alive, Dorothy recorded everything while the children’s mother was at work. With a video camera always in hand, she narrates the filmmaker’s entire childhood.
Qualm & Quietus
Directed by Phoebe Mussman
Part character study, part essay film, Qualm & Quietus challenges the anxiety with which we view death. The documentary follows Kerry Lynn, a woman who just stepped down from leading a pagan sanctuary. Death has followed Kerry Lynn throughout life, leading her to form a relationship with Hekate: the Titan goddess of the underworld and all things in transition. In facing her mortality with grace and candor, Kerry Lynn allows viewers to see the perfection of impermanence for themselves.