Thursday May 16-Sunday May 19, 2019, UC Santa Cruz DARC
[download digital schedule]


Songs of Mud
sound installation by Isabelle Carbonell and Duane Peterson
DARC courtyard, running throughout the symposium
Songs of Mud is a sound installation  exploring Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, and the world’s largest tailings spill ever recorded. On November 5, 2015, the foundations of an iron ore tailings dam from an iron mine in Bento Rodrigues, Brazil, suddenly cracked. Located at the top of a river, 60 million cubic tons of toxic sludge rushed down the Rio Doce, “The Sweet River.” Drowning two towns completely, the mud then made a 17 day march, 530 miles downstream until it spilled into the Atlantic Ocean. Deeply poisoning the water, this disaster effectively remapped an entire ecosystem. Songs of Mud is a sound installation which decenters the human, dives into the river, and looks at the more-than-human livability possible in the anthropocene.

5:00- 5:30pm | DARC 108
Irene Gustafson and Irene Lusztig

5:30-7:00pm | DARC 108
Session 1 – Framing Story
Alexandra Juhasz + Alisa Lebow, Rick Prelinger, Sindhu Thirumalaisamy
The range of possibilities beyond story in documentary are endless. In this opening session we will explore very different projects which showcase some of the extraordinary work that is being produced currently that explodes the bounds of storytelling, resisting its imperatives and shining a light on the straitjacket of its strictures. The session will hopefully raise more questions than it answers, while signaling possible directions for this ongoing discussion. In their online manifesto “Beyond Story,” Alexandra Juhasz and Alisa Lebow ask us to consider how and why storytelling, narrowly defined and developed to serve commercial interests, has come to dominate the field. And they argue passionately for its alternatives. Drawing from his experience of producing 25 urban history documentary events, Rick Prelinger describes a documentary storytelling practice that eschews the demands of single character narrative, instead leveraging public assembly and mass dialogue as a means of creating multiple, coequal consensuses around historical evidence. Sindhu Thirumalaisamy ‘s 2019 film Kere mattu Kere (The Lake and The Lake) is conceived as a response to a growing “lake-image-complex” that documents Bangalore’s polluted wetlands. The film dwells in a space where there are no protagonists, just neighbors occupying the ‘toxic commons’ of this landscape.

7:00- 8:00pm | DARC 3rd floor balcony
Drinks and a view!



9:00 – 10:00am | DARC LOBBY | MORNING COFFEE 

10:00 – 11:30am | DARC 108
Possibility Made Real
Lana Lin   (in conversation with Megan Moodie)
Drawing on Audre Lorde’s observation that poetry has the capacity to materialize possibility, to make it real, Lana Lin will consider the potential of poetry as an impetus and frame for documentary forms. The poetic, she suggests, can serve as alternative and resistance to conventional story structure in non-fiction film. Lin will share excerpts from her most recent feature film, The Cancer Journals Revisited, and discuss her attempts to forge both an individual and a collective voice that enunciates a nuanced relationship to survivorship, and speaks to the world-building collaborative project of living in the afterlife of trauma and illness.

11:30am – 1:00pm | DARC 108
Session 2 – Landscapes
Cecilia Aldarondo + Sarah Friedland, Raed Rafei, Sasha Wortzel
(Laura Kissel, moderator)
The presentations in this panel explore placemaking through the lens of landscape and history. Sasha Wortzel’s essay-style film examines how Florida’s contemporary landscape of inequity and vulnerability to climate change is historically rooted in the Everglades’ legacies of colonization, drainage and development. Cecilia Aldarondo and Sarah Friedland examine polyvocality and prismatic documentary structure as a challenge to colonialist forms of placemaking. In his film Tripoli: Symphony of a City, Raed Rafei wanders through Tripoli’s urban spaces, following the erratic movement of its people. Partly observational, partly inquisitive, the film examines the city’s public spaces– apprehending social meanings, constantly forming and dissolving.

1:00-2:00pm | DARC LOBBY | LUNCH
catered for registered symposium participants only


2:00-3:30pm | DARC 306
Session 3  – Story Framed
John Greyson + Jonathan Kahana, Paige Sarlin, Adam Tinkle
(Alisa Lebow, moderator)
This panel explores the political work of story.  Adam Tinkle reflects on his own work at MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute, an organization that was created, in part, to “train faculty and students in the techniques of documentary storytelling as a means to further scholarly research and launch it into the public sphere.” Is story the best way to create public-facing research? Paige Sarlin explores the ‘project’ of documentary. She writes, “A thoroughly modern concept, the ‘project form’ allows for the possibility of multiple iterations, a variety of approaches and formats, and movement across platforms. A project is also an endeavor with an ideological and political function, a plan with a definite aim. We have a project before we have ‘a story,’ before we have a title, before production.” Drawing on the work of contemporary documentary pranksters from Trinh T. Minh-ha to The Yes Men, Jonathan Kahana and John Greyson  demonstrate how parody can take many diverse anti-mimetic and anti-narrative forms in documentary, both sly and confrontational, hilarious and surprisingly moving. And since it operates from a stripped-down concept of character, in the modern sense, they argue, via Jill Godmilow, John Greyson, Walid Ra’ad, and Randy Rainbow as examples, that parodic legend can serve as one antidote to characterological, story-based political documentary.

2:00-3:30pm | DARC 108
Session 4 – Polyvocality
Jeanne C.  Finley, Iphigénie Marcoux-Fortier + Amy Magowan Greene + Meky Ottawa, Rabia Williams
(Fabiola Hanna, moderator)
The presentations in this panel explore the form, politics, and aesthetics of multi-voiced work. What does voice do when it is collectivized?  The Homes of the Women of My Rural Home, a collaboratively produced research-creation project by Iphigénie Marcoux-Fortier,  Amy Magowan Greene, and Meky Ottawa, explores the process of documentary co-creation as a tool for dialogue with women from different cultures living in the same rural area. Using a range of methods and strategies such as “small places” and microhistorical methodologies, poetic inquiry, “storybridging,” and indigenous methodologies as a method of inquiry, a collage of diverse microhistories of women and rurality emerges. Jeanne C. Finley’s Journeys Beyond the Cosmodrome travels with nine teenagers graduating from Kazakhstan’s Akkol Bolshoi Orphanage as they move towards adult Kazakh society.  The teenagers draw from space travel, nomadic Kazakh culture, and global popular iconography to write about, and then perform their imagined future selves, creating a multilayered inquiry through memory, fantasy, actuality, and hope.  Rabia Williams’ zim.doc is a cross-platform documentary project that emerges from a proposal for collaborative iteration designed by  filmmakers/artists of ACA (the Association of Women Audio/Visual creators) to work with WFOZ (Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe) based in Harare. For decades, Zimbabwe has been oversimplified in both the international media and state-run national media, burdened by extreme polarization and institutional hegemony. Exploring new formats for building a shared anthology, this is an approach to documentary as past present plural.


4:00-5:30pm | DARC 108
Session 5 – Animal
Jason Coyle +  Laska Jimsen, Benjamín  Schultz-Figueroa, Michael Gitlin
(Isabelle Carbonell, moderator)
This panel examines the representation of animal life in documentary practice. Schultz-Figueroa asks us: “Is ‘Against Story’ enough?” to represent the ‘alienness’ of animals as onscreen subjects. His presentation contextualizes this question within a broader field of institutional moving image documents of animal life. Jason Coyle and Laska Jimsen’s film Deer of North America documents spaces where lines between artificial and natural, domesticated and wild, are blurred, and where landscapes are managed, tamed, transformed, and controlled. The film presses us to ask new questions about the mobilization of animal images beyond the binary between human stories and animal anti-stories. Michael Gitlin’s The Night Visitors explores social and aesthetic questions about moths and about the activity of looking at moths, called mothing. The film proposes a kind of radical interspecies empathy that asks us to find a way into the inner life of these other creatures, whose way of being is so incommensurably different from our own.

5:30-7:30 pm | DARC 108
Session 6 – Swarm Season
(2019, 85 min: preview screening)
Screening and discussion with Sarah Christman
(Irene Lusztig, moderator)
On a remote volcanic island, ten year old Manu and her mother catch swarms of wild honeybees in order to breed disease resistant colonies. Her father is taking part in a native Hawaiian movement to protect the sacred Mauna Kea mountain from the construction of a massive telescope. On the nearby slopes of Mauna Loa, six NASA scientists are participating in a yearlong mission designed to prepare for life on Mars. Meanwhile, the Kilauea volcano is stirring. When bees swarm, the colony reproduces like a cell, by splitting in two. Half of the hive flies off in search of a new home, while the other half stays behind. The intricate workings of the honeybee hive offer a prismatic view of a precarious reality for Hawaii and beyond. If honeybees—one of the most resilient and cooperative species on the planet—are being pushed to the point of extinction, what kind of future do humans have on earth?



9:00 -10:00am | DARC LOBBY | MORNING COFFEE 

10:00-11:30AM | DARC 108
The New Territories of Filming and Being Filmed in the 21st Century
Kirsten Johnson
The documentary cameraperson has always navigated the ever-in-flux relationships between the director, the people who are filmed, the as-yet-unmade film, and time itself. But the 21st century is posing new possibilities and dilemmas never imagined by those few who filmed in the 20th century. That we are finally starting to see the world in ways that reflects radically different subjectivities is thrilling. Simultaneously, the international distribution platform of the internet, mass surveillance and the rise of machine-operated cameras is rapidly changing the positions and choices of camera people all around the world. The widespread accessibility of video cameras in phones means that most people on the planet can face as complicated ethical dilemmas as the most experienced documentary cameraperson has ever faced. As a cameraperson who began my career in the 1980s when filming constantly was relatively rare and most people were unfamiliar with being filmed, I have lived on both sides of a divide which generates deep questions about where the future of filming and being filmed will take us. Join me in considering the ways we might acknowledge these new territories in the ways we film and how we see.


11:30am-1:00pm | DARC 108
Session 7 – Embodied Stories
Margaret Laurena Kemp + Julie Forrest Wyman, Lizzie Thynne, Celia Vara
(Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, moderator)
How to tell the story of a person? In this panel, Celia Vara examines the work of Fina Miralles, a Catalonian artist born in 1950 under the repressive system of Francoism. Between 1972-1976, Miralles developed intense personal and artistic work regarding the body—being the specific place where this restrictive system marked its traces, but also the space where an emancipatory pedagogical system could be developed through corporeal dynamics. Lizzie Thynne’s presentation centers on Jill Craigie, (1911 – 99), one of the first British women documentary makers, whose work until recently has been scarcely visible. In creating an experimental biopic which reflects Craigie’s own hybrid methods, Thynne explores how her life history might be represented via the contingency and partiality of historical sources, including Craigie’s own words. Margaret Kemp and Julie Wyman present their work-in-progress collaboration, “She Who Is,” about the legacy, vision, and quandaries of American playwright Adrienne Kennedy. Based on research into Kennedy’s life as teacher and figure in American theater, the film centers on a performance within an actual teaching theatre. This work poses a dialogue between African-American social dance and artistic practice as an accumulated knowledge bank.

11:30am-1:00pm | DARC 306
Session 8 – Mapping
Razan Al Salah, Jennifer Boles, Cathy Lee Crane, D. Andy Rice
(Topiary Landberg, moderator)
What kinds of stories do maps reveal or produce? Razan Al Salah shares current research – both scholarly and practice-based – from The Greatest Wait (working title): a VR film exploring the Palestinian exilic condition by tracing the intergenerational migration route of a third-generation Palestinian refugee, through virtual reality. Cathy Lee Crane’s Drawing the Line, a series of short hybrid films, explores the International Border Survey Commission of 1851 and its ongoing implications for life on the US/Mexico border. D. Andy Rice’s work-in-progress Occupy a Wall, an “open space” documentary, reflects on watershed campus activism at Miami University in 1970 through the curation of a virtual and expandable media “skin” accessible through a smartphone app. In The Reversal, a short documentary film and installation piece about the Chicago River, Jennifer Boles explores a thick and haunted history of human manipulation and the ongoing morally-complex entanglements between capitalism, technology, human bodies, and the natural environment.

1:00-2:00pm | DARC LOBBY | LUNCH
catered for registered symposium participants only


2:00-3:30pm  | DARC 108
Session 9 – Time Travel
screening program and discussion
D’Angelo Madsen Minax, Mitch McCabe, Traci Hercher
(Helen Hood Scheer, moderator)

The Eddies (2018, 16 min.) | D’Angelo Madsen Minax  From below ground, a man named Eddie describes the flood lines, levees, and trivial histories of the crumbling infrastructure of Memphis, TN. In this same city, the filmmaker, a recent transsexual transplant, watches war films and contemplates masculine connectivity as he attempts to integrate into the American South. He posts a Craigslist ad asking men to masturbate on-camera with their firearms. He receives a single response from a man whose name is also Eddie.

Civil War Surveillance Poems (Part One) (2019, 15 min.) | Mitch McCabe Civil War Surveillance Poems (Part One) is the first film in a four-part project of experimental and hybrid films contemplating a second American civil war via lyrical nonfiction, mixing call-in radio and twenty years of verité footage from the filmmaker’s archive. In the end, the series builds to a hybrid narrative film of clashing ideology, culminating in an installation of sound sculpture, four-walled video and Americana artifacts.

Daddy of ‘Em All (work in progress, 30 min.) | Traci Hercher Since its inception in 1897, the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors to Wyoming for a 10-day celebration of “Western roots,” culminating in the world’s largest outdoor rodeo nicknamed “The Daddy of ‘Em All.” Shot during the 2018 Frontier Days, Daddy of ‘Em All tracks the proliferation of settler colonial narratives which the event seeks to ossify through its signs, symbols, and sets. Through dislocated images and interviews with past and present Frontier Days volunteers and attendees including the filmmaker’s mother, a then-resident of Cheyenne, the film grapples with heritage, ideology, violence, and borders in a time of growing nationalism.

2:00-3:30pm | DARC 306
Session 10 – Personal Archives
Sandra Lim, Rebekah Rutkoff, Lee Anne Schmitt
(Jonathan Kahana, moderator)
This panel explores the intersection of historical processes and personal archives. In 2018, Sandra Lim’s family participated in the Family Camera Network research project, which took place at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. As a participant, her family’s photographs and stories of migration were collected and archived with thirty families from across Canada. Using this experience as a springboard, Lim’s project aims to work against the notion of family stories as history and/or documentary knowledge fixed in time and space, but rather, to consider a family story as a continual process of relations in space. Lee Anne Schmitt’s film-in-progress Evidence addresses the way our personal lives connect into global histories and the complexity of family, of masculinity, of whiteness and the various ways power is expressed and inherited.  A personal discovery serves as a point of departure for Rebekah Rutkoff’s, Sylvia + Geza, a nonfiction book in progress. While reading the Hungarian anthropologist and psychoanalyst Geza Róheim’s Magic and Schizophrenia (his 1955 book about magic in anthropological and psychoanalytic registers), Rutkoff suspected that the unnamed patient presented in one of the book’s case studies — a Jewish painter who had entered analysis when she’d learned of her inability to conceive a child — was her aunt Sylvia Rutkoff, an abstract painter who underwent psychoanalysis with Róheim in New York City in the 1940s.


4:00-5:30pm | DARC 108
Session 11 – Surveillance
Sharon Daniel, Martin Lucas, Aphid Stern
(Rick Prelinger, moderator)
This panel focuses on the intersection of visibility and power, in relation to discrete acts of state violence. In her presentation, Sharon Daniel asks: in a world where concrete visible evidence of state violence is not enough to hold state actors accountable to law, what is the role of documentary practice? While funding and focus in the field have turned sharply toward ‘producing empathy’ through immersion within virtual reality environments and storytelling through character generated narrative – forms that reinforce neo-liberalism –Daniel proposes a turn toward alternative forms:  strategies and gestures, including ‘forensic reenactment’, ‘materialization’ (of testimony) and ‘defacement’ (of the symbolic order of the state). Starting with material obtained by a Freedom of Information (FOIA) act by the ACLU, and posted by the FBI on their online “File Vault” in August 2016, Aphid Stern’s project-in-progress, “Unburning 1D3001Part1.mp4” examines the aerial images of the 2015 protests that broke out in Baltimore, MD following the death of Freddie Gray, at the hands of police. Stern’s project starts with the premise that this video footage, captured by infrared sensors attached to a mix of helicopters and fixed-wing Cessna airplanes, serves to reproduce a racialized and criminalizing gaze. If the video is irretrievably unethical, what remains in its absence? Martin Lucas presents research focused on new articulations of the political subject enabled through and around documentary media by focusing on specific documentaries that sought to offer portraits of the Indignado or 15M movement in Spain, and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US. Lucas shows how the strategies deployed in these works offer new vistas onto the creation of a political subjectivity in the context of an affective politics, and suggest that this offers a chance to rethink the role of the documentary and its maker.

6:00pm | DARC BUILDING | SHUTTLE PICKUP           
Shuttle will bring dinner guests to the restaurant venue

for registered symposium presenters and moderators with dinner tickets



9:00 -10:00am | DARC LOBBY | MORNING COFFEE 

10:00-11:30AM | DARC 108
Session 12 – Histories of Place
Rana Jarbou, Meghan O’Hara + James Merle Thomas, Hanna Rose Shell
(Suzy Halajian, moderator)
Hanna Rose Shell’s film Climax takes up the space—literal, figurative, visual and material—of the Climax Observatory, built on and with the support of the Climax Molybdenum Mine, at Fremont Pass in Climax Colorado in 1940, officially named the High Altitude Observatory. The film is inspired by this space, this dome, as a space of contemplation, reflection, a respite from the world, that—metaphorically speaking—was also a viewing out onto its utmost horrors. It is philosophical and imaginative, a world of images, horrors, death, and the space between light and darkness. Rana Jarbou’s Al-Tih (Wasteland) traces the spatial history of Al-Hasa, the Eastern Province in the Arabian Peninsula, from an oasis to the oil metropolis that it is today, by reviving repressed histories of the spatial practices of Aramco and its impact on its Arab and Saudi-born workers, particularly during the 1950’s and 60’s. Megan O’Hara and James Merle Thomas present samples of their  work-in-progress Tektite Revisited to discuss their formal strategies for revisiting and disrupting oversimplified narratives about the history of technological progress that inform received understandings of the present, or attenuate future projections. Their film tells the story of the Tektite Program, an experimental underwater research station operated by NASA in the U.S. Virgin Islands between 1969-1970.

11:30am-1:00pm | DARC 108
Session 13 – Evidence
Tirtza Even + Meg McLagan, Alex Johnston, Srđan Keča
(Irene Gustafson, moderator)
Tirtza Even and Meg McLagan’s Half Truths and Full Lies depicts, through documentation and reenactment, the case of Efrén Paredes, a Latinx man from Michigan, who was sentenced to life without parole in 1989 at age fifteen, for a murder he claims he did not commit. The installation deploys a form of storytelling that unfolds nonlinearly and in space: the goal is to surround viewers with incompatible slivers of the narrative, and have them piece the story together themselves.  In this way the project attempts to recuperate conflicting narrative possibilities, and to investigate the nature of truth-telling in media and the law. Alex Johnston will screen his short film, A Costly Lesson. The film focuses on the death by suffocation of eight African American convicts at a prison plantation in Texas in 1913, the “costly lesson” for a work slow down coordinated by the prisoners in protest of labor conditions. The film is both a work of historiographic self-reflection and a memorial for forgotten (though not anonymous) victims of state violence and white supremacy. It operates as a meditation on the difficulties of doing historical work which seeks to visualize neglected and suppressed histories, the struggle to represent despite an absence of evidence, and the importance of exposing the structural forces which produced this absence. In July 1995, a local TV station in Serbia aired a roughly-edited report celebrating the fall of the Srebrenica enclave in Bosnia to Serbian forces. The video material was recorded on an amateur camera by journalist Zoran Petrović, who gained privileged access to the organized exodus of the Muslim population, and the rounding up of men and boys who had tried to escape. After broadcasting his report once, Petrović hastily erased from his tape traces of the scale of the atrocity. Srđan Keča uses this story to ask questions about the relationship between image and history. Why are some images erased or hidden away, and others circulated widely?

Closing Remarks