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MFA documentaries grapple with questions of loss and the search for grounding

Two-night showcase “Lost and Found” presented virtually June 10 and 11 at Block Cinema

Still from Alessandra El Chanti’s “When Beirut Was Beirut”
Still from Alessandra El Chanti’s “When Beirut Was Beirut”

Northwestern University continues to build on its reputation for releasing talented film alumni into the world with the sixth consecutive NU DOCS screening event. Each one-night-only event will be presented virtually at 7 p.m., June 10 and 11 in partnership with the Block Museum of Art. Admission is free and open to the public.

“Lost and Found”features nine short films exploring loss or recovery, whether that be of a homeland, family, identity, love or peace of mind. The films are directed by graduates from the two-year MFA program in documentary media at the School of Communication.

“This cohort has overcome great adversity during the pandemic in order to create these compelling films, despite only being in physical classrooms for two of the six quarters over the course of their graduate study at Northwestern,” said Debra Tolchinsky, associate professor of radio/television/film at the School of Communication. “The result of this pressure is a powerful mix of deeply personal films which grapple with questions of how we as humans encounter loss and search for grounding once again.”

Each 80-minute program will be screened virtually through Eventive. Screenings will be followed by a live panel discussion with the filmmakers during which viewers may submit questions.

“It’s always a privilege to be in the first audience for the Documentary MFA thesis films, before they go on to play in festivals around the world and introduce viewers to the talented filmmakers coming out of Northwestern,” said Michael Metzger, Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts at The Block Museum. “I’m especially grateful that, despite the pandemic, the Block is able to continue our longstanding support of the program. Our Eventive platform will be the first station on the journey for these remarkable films, allowing audiences far and wide to join us virtually for this exciting moment of discovery.”

The films and filmmakers include: 

“Lost//Found Part 1”

Thursday, June 10, 7 p.m.
RSVP for program one online

“Freedom Hill” – director Resita Cox

Princeville, North Carolina, is the first town incorporated by freed, formerly enslaved Africans in America. This historical significance sits on a precipice: The town is gradually being washed away.

“Hello, Noura” – director Noura Al Sabboury Khayat

We live a day in the life of Roula Nasser as she lives in Lebanon and reminisces on her intimate relationship with her daughter and how separation continues to inform that relationship across borders.

“Falling Leaves from the Family Tree”– director Chris Churchill

Chris Churchill explores how the legacy of racism within his own family affected two sets of first cousins differently. Churchill’s cousins are bi-racial while he and his siblings are white. Their shared grandfather, a Christian preacher, chose not to have a relationship with his bi-racial grandchildren while having a loving relationship with each of his white grandchildren.

“When Beirut Was Beirut” – director Alessandra El Chanti

If these buildings could talk, what would they say? In this animated documentary, three of Beirut’s monumental buildings come to life and share their stories of Beirut’s unsettling history. 

“Hejar” – director Anvar Hassanpour

Hejar is the story of a Kurdish immigrant and family man who must live with the consequences of assuming the identity of Adam, his dead cousin when fleeing war-torn Kurdistan/Northern Iraq decades ago as a child.

“Lost//Found Part 2”

Friday, June 11, 7 p.m.
RSVP for program two online

“The First Wave” – director Marilyn Oliva

Timo Espinoza, a second-generation Latino cannabis legacy operator, and survivor of the war on drugs, transitions his family business from the traditional market to the legal market in the upheaval battle of social equity. 

“Bayou for Us” – director Mizani Ball

“Bayou for Us” takes us to a lively small street that has become a safe haven and vibrant place of opportunity for Black natives in New Orleans. 

“Last Race” – director John Haley

In the midst of a whirlwind campaign for elected office in America’s heartland, a political novice navigates the contours of newfound love. 

“White Lotus” – director Sean Moore

Members of a commune of Buddhists continue their practice after a fire destroys the shrine at the center of their community.

For more information, please contact program assistant Patrick Lile at or 847-467-4696 or MFA candidate John Haley at or 507-469-2558.

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