On May 9, at the historic Missouri Theatre in downtown Columbia, the Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism will hold its second annual Stronger Than Fiction Film Festival, a showcase of the work of the students graduating from the Documentary Journalism interest area. The festival marks the world premiere for these films, many of which will then go on to other film festivals all over the U.S. and beyond.
Twenty Missouri Journalism students will be showing short documentary films over four different blocks, with each block showing completely different films. Highlighting the industry-focused Missouri Method of training, the students’ ideas for these films were approved by an outside panel of documentary professionals last spring.
According to Stacey Woelfel, center director, “The festival is the final step in our Missouri Method approach to teaching our students. Like all our journalism students, their work now goes before the public to inform and engage a real-world audience.” Woelfel says that holding the festival at the Missouri Theatre provides the festival with “an enormous screen and terrific sound system” on which to play the films.
Project screenings are presented in four blocks, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., with each block lasting approximately two hours. At the end of each block, there will be a Q&A session with the filmmakers. Following the 7 p.m. block, there will also be an awards ceremony recognizing the best student films. Admission to all films is free (no tickets required) and open to the public.
Films playing are:
Block A: 10:00 am
Chiane from Far Rockaway
dir. Cassidy Minarik
As 17-year-old Chiane enters her senior year, she realizes her past is not all she will become. Through the lens of a disposable camera, she delves into an exploration of the places that have shaped her. In this collaborative nonfiction portrait, Chiane uses this new medium to capture who she is in what she sees. The film illustrates how we express our identity in an environment that pressures us to conform
dir. Jackson Bollinger
The linear theory of time is challenged in this nonfiction essay, as a young filmmaker tries to form a meaningful relationship with a deceased relative. Taking the audience through this attempt to bend time and form connections, Temporal uses footage from Los Angeles and New York to analyze how spaces can hold memories, even after people are gone. The film is narrated by an omniscient voice that guides the audience through this ambitious attempt to blur the lines of past and present.
dir. Will Linhares
An audio-visual portrait of Docktown Marina, a floating community in the heart of the Bay Area’s tech region, the film follows the more than one hundred residents who were forcibly displaced from their homes following a long battle between local city council officials, lawyers and real estate developers. Moving Housesseeks to portray a difference in perspective between the rhythms of a world vanishing and the possibilities of what is to follow.
In the Dark
dir. Jessie King
Reading isn’t natural, it’s not instinctual and it’s a fairly recent human invention. Reading is a struggle for each of us to master as children. But those with dyslexia must fight to read their entire lives. Doctors say there is no cure and aim therapy at teaching coping strategies. But Texas therapist Dr. Phyllis Books has been working to reverse dyslexia for more than 30 years. In the Dark follows those struggling with the condition and hoping Books can change their lives—in just five days.
Block B: 1:00 pm
Here I Will Hanker
dir. Sebastián Martínez Valdivia
An abandoned schoolhouse in the Flint Hills of Kansas; highways and development pushing in on an untouched glade in the Ozarks; a class of first-graders carrying the last best hopes of a dying language in Osage County, Oklahoma: this is modern life on the prairie.The American Midwest is a region whose history lies buried under endless fields of soybean, corn and more than a century of popular mythologizing. Here I Will Hanker is a nonfiction adaptation of Carl Sandburg’s poem Prairie that goes looking for that hidden past by exploring the last vestiges of a broken landscape, and the people who call it home.
dir. Morgan Magid
Basking Seasonjoins the Swamp Apes as they hunt down the invasive Burmese python. The film follows founder Tom Rahill and fellow Swamp Ape Sergeant Major on one of their surveys through the beautiful sea of grass that makes up the Florida Everglades. While road cruising and jungle busting, the Swamp Apes discover plenty along the way – alligators, a water moccasin, a nest of old python eggs. But will they find one of the giants they’re looking for?
dir. Nicky Cook
Months after a devastating forest fire, this quiet and reflective film returns to Cascade Locks, Oregon—a humbly idyllic tourist town—where residents continue to struggle with the aftermath. Just a few miles from bustling Portland, the city of Cascade Locks now lies on the brink of economic and environmental destruction. Hidden among the cliffs of the strikingly beautiful Columbia River Gorge, a portrait of fear and faith unfolds as two local women recount their tales of resilience in the face of natural disaster and grapple with an uncertain future.
The Magic of Acting
dir. Jack Tideman
The film captures the techniques of the instructor, Ted Sarantos, who has been teaching acting for 40 years in the Chicago area—teaching some of the same students for almost half that time. Ted’s students are older than most would expect and now exploring the profession of acting after having long careers in other fields. In The Magic of Acting, students try to exhibit their passion against the pressure of mainstream society telling them they can’t do what they want to do.
dir. Liza Anderson
Betrayal, secrets, murder, and … pizza sauce? With no witnesses and no leads, will forensic investigators be able to find who killed Ashley Stanley in her own home? This mockumentary film, based on the popular true crime series Forensic Files, will take a look at American audiences’ obsession with crime and especially…MURDER.
The best of me.MP4
dir. Michael English
In September 1996, 21-year-old Ricardo López mailed a package to pop singer Björk containing a device rigged to spray sulfuric acid to kill or disfigure her. Upon his return home, he committed suicide, leaving behind nearly twenty hours of video diaries recorded over nine months as evidence of his actions. The diaries not only captured the building of the letter bomb, but also López’s personal thoughts on his life, his family, and his sanity. Twenty years after these diaries were discovered, they shock and fascinate curious viewers in an online world.
Block C: 4:00 pm
Ironing with My Hands
dir. Rachel Tiedemann
Ironing with My Handsrides the line between passion and profession as seen through the eyes of a young improvisational comedian in the starting place of all great comics—Chicago. Attempting to define himself as a comedian and a new careerist in an overwhelmingly large community of young people, our main character explores within and beyond his identity as a comedian to establish a sense of individuality and selfhood.
Staci and Sadie
dir. Suzy Le Bel
Staci Manella and Sadie Debaun are best friends and business partners. This nonfiction buddy movie charts the determination of teammates to compete for each other, despite the obstacles that get in their way. As their challenges are revealed, the film focuses the importance of not letting any obstacles determine our lifestyles.
Fools at Heart
dir. Nate Compton
Setsuna Steele, a Romani man—more commonly known as a Gypsy—grapples with the sudden and unexpected loss of his brother. Chasing down trains and climbing through caves and mountains, Setsuna travels through Colorado Springs with his kin and guild. As outcasts from their own families, the guild members have formed their own bond beyond blood.
dir. Abbey Reznicek
Some believe the stunning red rock formations and the unusually calming atmosphere they create draw people to the seemingly mystical town of Sedona, Arizona. Others believe it is something more–the vortexes found under the city itself. Until Arcturusfeatures a woman who sees the world through the eyes of her alien family while trying to live out her truth among the humans who surround her.
The Sit Down
dir. Laura Harris
Three years later a daughter tries to rid herself of a burden she carries. This intimate nonfiction examination of mental health captures a reveal that leaves a young woman wondering where she stands with her family. Conversations with her mother and father turn confrontational as her biggest secret is revealed. Supported by loved ones, this family works out real problems in real time. The pain she carries becomes the family’s pain as they try to face the unknown future together.
Block D: 7:00 pm
dir. Bella Graves
The film follows a young mother’s visit to the juvenile detention center where she was once incarcerated, returning this time as a trained somatic therapist. Through an intimate look into the lives of incarcerated youth, Roxanashows us the consequences of childhood trauma.
TAKE A PICTURE OF MY DICK
dir. Olga Breslavets
Violence against women is a pernicious force. It is so piercing and yet often ambiguous, a sensation that’s fleeting but a mood that’s enduring. A piece that is both deeply personal and virtually anonymous, TAKE A PICTURE OF MY DICK is an emotionally exploratory work that invites the viewer to become fully submerged in the moment, to sit in the silence, to stare uninterrupted and take in the experience of a night as a woman alone on the street.
dir. Beatriz Costa Lima
The small beach town of Majorlandia is a place where time passes slowly and adventure comes quietly. Ulissesis a poetic observational documentary that follows the lives of a community of “jangadeiros” — fishermen typical to the dune-lined northeastern coast of Brazil. Although their numbers are dwindling, some jangadeiroscontinue to live off the ocean. The sights and sounds of their lives show more than a century’s worth of history woven into every sail.
奶奶 (Nai Nai)
dir. Wyatt Wu
Nai Nai follows the story of a Chinese immigrant grandmother, Chu-Ming Wu. Known as “Nai Nai,” Chu-Ming has always been a woman of control. But her grasp of reality and the control of her own mind is slipping away. Told through the lens of her grandson, the film focuses on her pain and struggles in the last chapters of her life.