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MFA in Documentary Media Program to Showcase Student Films

New School of Communication program presents thesis films by first graduating class

  • Inaugural class of graduates to screen their short documentaries each evening
  • Audiences get an opportunity to discover next generation of filmmakers
  • Short documentaries are diverse in both topic and style
  • Films tackle heartbreak, memories of Bosnian war, family dynamics, poetry and more

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A Chinese entrepreneur attempts to take over the world through noodles in one documentary featured in a three-part June showcase presented by Northwestern University's new MFA in Documentary Media. Other topics include a Black Israelite church in Chicago, friendship in the digital age and a family’s struggle with opiate addiction. 

The program will give audience members a chance to discover the next generation of filmmakers who are part of the inaugural class of graduates in the new documentary program. They tackle topics as diverse as heartbreak, memories of the Bosnian war, family dynamics, poetry and more. 

The MFA in Documentary Media Program’s first annual thesis film showcase will take place at Block Cinema from June 8 to10. Free and open to the public, the 7 p.m. screenings will be held at Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers. A reception will precede each event at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby. 

During the course of three nights, the inaugural class of graduates will screen a different selection of engaging short documentaries each evening.

The MFA in Documentary Media is offered by the School of Communication -- home not only to Northwestern’s top-ranked film program, but also to the MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage program. Both have successfully launched directors, producers, screenwriters and development executives. 

Diverse in both topic and style -- and ranging from ethnographic to cinema verité and hybrid approaches -- the 12 thesis films were directed by Northwestern graduate students Carlos Cova, Rafie Drencheva, Shuhan Fan, Jasmine Huff, Miasarah Lai, Deborah Libby, João Queiroga, Sara Reed, Justin Reifert, Brittany Shyne, Jesseca Simmons and Qihui Wu.

Detailed film descriptions and the line-up for each evening’s program can be found online

MFA in Documentary Media Showcase schedule

Each of the three programs will present four films that are loosely linked by theme:

  • Program 1: Seekers, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 8. A poet explores her past, both real and imagined, through her poetry; a daughter reconnects with her father through art; a Chinese entrepreneur attempts to take over the world through noodles; and people heal with the help of hallucinogenic plant medicines.
  • Program 2: Accented Cinema, 7 p.m. Thursday, June 9. Tied together by displacement and the exploration of memories, the films in this program profile African-American farmers in the south, a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's disease, an immigrant recalling his escape from the Bosnian war, and a Black Israelite church in Chicago. The screenings will be followed by a conversation between the filmmakers and Northwestern University Professor Hamid Naficy, author of “An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking.”
  • Program 3: Intimate Strangers, 7 p.m. Friday, June 10. Our longing for and struggle with human connection are at the center of the films in this program, including a family struggling to support a loved one in his recovery from opiate addiction, a woman trying to overcome heartbreak, an exploration of buying friendship in the digital age and a fleeting phone encounter that takes an unexpected turn. 


In fall 2014, Northwestern University launched a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Program in Documentary Media. Exposing students to a range of approaches from traditional documentary to innovative hybrid productions that embrace cross-pollination with fiction, the two-year professional program will see its inaugural cohort graduate in June 2016.  

The School of Communication’s MFA in Documentary Media program stresses collaboration. Students travel in unison through six core courses, encouraging them to work together and look to one another for feedback, crewing and creative support. After graduation, they can tap into the Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance, an organization that helps alumni working in or looking to break into the entertainment industry. 

Students are taught by faculty who have screened their work at major festivals such as Sundance, Cannes and SXSW; have aired work for venues such as PBS, Showtime and HBO, and have had work distributed by Cinema Guild, IFC, Celluloid Dreams and iTunes. 

More information available online, or contact Patrick Lile, program assistant, MFA in Documentary Media at 847-467-4696 or email

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