New School News

Spring Awakening: Doc Studies Blooms in April

Muslim cleric Imam Siraj Wahhaj at work in a scene from Donya Ravasani's film American Imam.

T.S. Eliot can say what he likes; April is anything but the cruelest month for the Documentary Studies program at The New School for Public Engagement. Two events this month highlight how influential the program has become in the six years since its launch.

Documentary Studies grad Trinidad Rodriguez will walk the Chelsea Clearview’s red carpet to the premiere of her first feature-length documentary, High Tech, Low Life, screening in the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. The film, produced with director Stephen Maing, explores China through the eyes of two social media activists.

On April 14, the program celebrates its sixth anniversary at Union Docs with “DocStudies at The New School,” a screening of five films by DocStudies graduates. The films represent the breadth of the program. We’ve moved beyond an early emphasis on character-driven narratives,, program director Deirdre Boyle explains. We embrace a variety of styles and approaches to documentary, from animation and autobiography to social advocacy, visual essays and v√©rit√©.,

Over the past six years, the program has produced a range of memorable documentaries. Films produced, edited, and directed by students in the one-year, full-time graduate certificate program have covered topics ranging from the lives of Muslim clerics in the United States to subway platform performers. While most students begin the program with little or no background in media production, they quickly develop sought-after vocational skills: Graduates work as editors, cinematographers, indie producers, and Web-based documentarians. Alumni include Maya Mumma, associate editor of Restrepo, a documentary nominated for an Academy Award in 2011, and Sue Hagedorn, who launched her own production company on Long Island.

“One of the hallmarks of this program is that, because students are a part of a cohort while they are here, they establish a tight bond,” says Boyle.

Documentary Studies events continue beyond April. The Truth Be Told, the annual DocStudies film festival at The New School will showcase work from the class of 2012 on May 22’24. With many of the program’s graduates expected to attend, Boyle thinks of the festival as another informal reunion. It’s an opportunity for all of us to reflect on what we’ve accomplished as individuals and as a community.,

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