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Third annual ‘NU Docs’ festival showcases innovative MFA film projects

EVANSTON - With stylistic approaches ranging from essay film to observational documentary and a hybrid of non-fiction and fiction elements, 12 Northwestern University thesis projects will explore U.S. stories and global stories set in Ghana, Germany, China and India.

Northwestern’s School of Communication MFA in Documentary Media program will hold its third annual “NU Docs” thesis film showcase, June 13 to 15 at Block Cinema, 40 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus. Screenings are free and open to the public.

This year’s filmmakers and MFA candidates include Pam Austin, Yu Bai, Kai Allen Blakley, Elodie Edjang, Peter Franco, Kyeongbok Lee, Stephen Nelson, Joyy Norris, Sandeep Pamulapati, Chad Wallin, Heqiuzi Wang and Evan Yin Wang. 

Past “NU Docs” thesis films have gone on to screenings at film festivals around the world including Locarno, Cinéma du Réel, San Sebastián and the Chicago International Film Festival.

“NU Docs” programs begin at 6 p.m. with a reception in the lobby of the Block Museum of Art. During the reception Nelson’s interactive project “Union Station” will be presented in front of the museum.

Three different programs will be screened on consecutive nights in the Block Cinema at 7 p.m. and conclude with a talkback with the filmmakers.

The “NU Docs” schedule is as follows:

 Program 1: “Legacies”

Wednesday, June 13

  • “Fountain of Tears” - Inspired by true events, Lee’s fiction hybrid explores a traumatic family reunion set in motion by events during the Nazi era.
  • “Two Empty Nests” - Filmmaker Pamulapati returns to India to explore his grandparents’ spirituality.
  • “Swan Lake” - Set in a small Chinese fishing village, Bai’s film portrays a young man whose ambition is in conflict with his parents’ desire for a more traditional path. 

Program 2: “Borders/Edges/Frames”

Thursday, June 14

  • “The Schweinfurt Pentalogy – Center” - Blakley’s film explores a former U.S. military base in Southern Germany, still a site for transient lives, that now houses refugees.
  • “Roughly Delicate” – Set in Chicago, Wang’s film documents a group of Chinese women who dance in high heels and shoot guns at the range.
  • “Book of Daniel” - Edjang’s intimate film portrays a Sudanese refugee living in Chicago, who copes with the deep trauma of his past through art.
    • “The B-Roll” – Franco’s film, constructed entirely from pre-existing footage, asks what’s hiding behind the B-roll? 

Program 3: “Where We Find Ourselves”
Friday, June 15

  • “Whimper” - Set in rural Indiana, Austin’s docu-fiction film portrays a 13-year-old preparing himself for the end of the world.
  • “In Order” - A young Afro-Latina woman reflects on her calling and prepares to become a Catholic nun in Norris’s film.
  • “Parallel” - Wang’s film is an affectionate fan letter to Latvian filmmaker Laila Pakalnina.
  • “Castle Boys” – The rhythms and music of a coastal Ghanaian community are overshadowed by a tourist industry steeped in a dark history in Wallin’s film.

More program details are available on the Block Museum website.  

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