Truth Be Told: Documentary Studies Students Debut Films

Production still from Traif, a film by Julia Reagan.

New York City has never wanted for interesting stories. Forgotten histories and compelling characters lurk around every corner. For 16 New School filmmakers, the magnetic pull of the city was so great that they dedicated the last year to capturing it on screen.

On May 24’26, the results of this urban-focused year premiered in Truth Be Told, a public screening series of the final short films by the Documentary Media Studies class of 2011. Each evening’s films were united by a common theme. Movers and Shakers (May 24) featured portraits of the characters, from subway breakdancers (Angel) to Muslim clerics (American Imam), who animate the city.

Insiders Outsiders (May 25) explored the social dynamics of the city’s many tribes, from the Brooklyn Free Store, an anarchist collective dedicated to creating a community centered on garbage (Vulture Culture) to the Jewish hipster straddling two worlds in South Williamsburg (Traif). Passionate Past Times (May 26) highlighted days of innocent play (The Braddock Boys and Just Play) and cinematic obsession (After the Credits).

Now in its fifth year, the Documentary Media Studies program could not have come at a better time. Documentary has become the cutting edge of cinema today, and people crowd multiplexes to see new work,, said program director Deirdre Boyle. This generation of filmmakers cares deeply about social issues and making a difference, and they see documentary as a great way to effect change.,

As with the four previous classes, the students in the current cohort are as diverse as their subjects. Hailing from around the world, Denmark, Colombia, the American Midwest, the class of 2011 includes students who have worked as professional dancers, photographers, non-profit managers and computer software designers. This breadth of perspectives is reflected in the diversity of cinematic styles on view, which includes vérité, essay, and portrait.

These student filmmakers were brought together through the collaborative work that distinguishes the program, in which students crew on classmates’ films. Each graduate has worked on at least three films, sometimes many more,, said Boyle. The process fosters a community consciousness that also emerges in the stories they choose to tell.,

Having completed the program, the students joined another accomplished and close-knit community: Documentary Studies alumni. Within a relatively short period, the 60 alumni of the program have made a splash in the documentary world. Maya Mumma ’07 was associate editor of the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo; Jeremy Cohan ’10 is currently a semifinalist for a Student Academy Award; and Stephane Goldsand ’10 has screened his first film at seven film festivals. Other alumni have launched careers as video editors for broadcast networks, producers for cable TV, and directors of their own production companies. Because we are a small program, each class forms a strong bond,, said Boyle. And that bond translates into a great professional network. The first graduating class formed a production collective that is still working together today.,

For more information about Documentary Studies at The New School, visit www.newschool.edu/docstudies.