Featured post

The Need for Niche: Re-thinking a Film’s Festival Circuit

Traversing the Niche Festival Market

Con Moto: The Alexander String Quartet along with Abina and the Important Men will screen at niche driven festivals in Napa Valley and Toronto, Canada this month.  Con Moto looks at the tradition of chamber music as lived by the world famous Alexander String Quartet as they travel through Poland.  Abina is an animated film adapted from the award-winning graphic novel about a young woman who escapes slavery and takes her master to court in West Africa during the late 1800’s.  The distribution of these films is an eye-opening education in the vital role niche festivals play in the life of films that are made on the fringes of the mainstream.

There is an evident and clear need for alternative spaces for films operating in niche categories, genres and content.  They create important discussions with their respective communities. A film’s life through the festival circuit varies widely from years past.  As Daryl Chin and Larry Qualls note, the possibilities are many as “we are living in a time of developing alternatives. Though the hegemony of the commercial industry remains, there are fringe activities and new models for exhibition, distribution, and dissemination.” We must be aware of alternative possibilities that exist on the “fringe” especially considering new modes of storytelling and content historically pushed to the margins are becoming more and more part of the conversation in the mainstream, in form and content.

“Con Moto” & “Abina” Laurels

The landscape of festivals is much different considering the proliferation of niche markets and stories emerging from minority and marginalized communities. The remapping of festival options for a film has aided in the “survival of the phenomenon of film festivals,” and helped retain the festival space as, “a zone, a liminal state, where the cinematic products can bask in the attention they receive for their aesthetic achievements, cultural specificity, or social relevance” (Marijke de Valck). I would extend these thoughts to speak directly to the opportunities created through the niche and fringe festival markets. From the perspective of content that represents peoples and histories ignored in mainstream outlets, or discussions about the direction of form and new media, these niche environments help support and encourage storytelling to challenge the status quo. This provides agency to voices and filmmakers who are now finding outlets, gaining traction and proving a need for diverse storytelling.


This profound diversity in the festival scene is something we are witness to. We develop relationships and attend festivals that may not ordinarily cross our virtual path. Con Moto had early success in two online film festivals, an option with growing strength and one that speaks to global audiences. Con Moto is also an example of a film that can bridge art forms that may not typically intersect. We have been able to screen this film in conjunction with chamber music performances and events. Screening in this manner speaks to specific audiences and gives the film opportunity to thrive in curated spaces.

With Abina being adapted from a graphic novel, it has the ability to screen in chapters – as a series – or from start to finish as a feature. This connects nicely with festivals seeking to draw out discussions surrounding new media in storytelling. This is in addition to the rich history the film and graphic novel explores. Raindance created a Webfest and VR Arcade to the expand the main festival in recent years, speaking to the power and importance of emerging niche markets, and we were inspired that Abina could contribute to that dialogue and interaction.  The programmer’s thoughtful approach was not only inclusive but also bold, adding Abina to a documentary program as the only animated film in the bunch.

Soumyaa @ Raindance FF


It’s not just the makers but the programmers who are making this revolution happen.  Without alternative thinkers who are gatekeepers to exhibition, these smaller films would not reach the audiences they are now being connected to.

DocFilm held its first conference last year, Pluralities, on the expanded state of documentary including a panel on niche distribution led by Susie Hernandez from KQED. This panel featured an insightful dialogue with Masashi Niwano from the Center for Asian American Media, Daniel Moretti from Frameline and Marc Smolowitz Independent Producer extraordinaire of 13th Gen.

They discussed both festival cycles, but also the varied and unique options a film has in distribution. They also pointed out that as access to content becomes more democratized and varied films will need to reflect these diversified audiences and their backgrounds.

We are encouraged to see the direction our industry is headed, as the panel, who represent highly diverse backgrounds, are in positions that serve as gatekeepers to exhibition. It makes abundantly clear that terms examined here – niche and fringe – should now and forward be considered on their own volition rather than in deference to any commodified mainstream or homogenized market.

Pluralities Panel on Niche Distribution: Led by Susie Hernandez KQED



Coming up, Con Moto and Abina have been announced as Official Selections for upcoming festivals, The Classical Arts Film Festival and The Toronto Black Film Festival.

Con Moto has the privilege of opening the festival with the feature-length documentary Beautifully Scary. Operating to promote the classical arts the Jarvis Conservatory is in its third year as host of this festival. These two films will start the conversation on the importance of the arts, inspiration, and education. If you can join us, Soumyaa and I will be in attendance and will participate in a Q&A after the screening.

The Alexander String Quartet & DocFilm Crew in Poland

Finally, Abina and the Important Men is thrilled to be among the films at this year’s Toronto Black Film Festival. Speaking further to the specific way films are being programmed and ultimately shared with a community, Abina will be part of the TBFF Kids Film Festival. This selection of films aim to inspire and empower children through the discovery of filmmaking, animation, story-telling and more. This is especially exciting as Abina was adapted to exist supplementally as an educational tool in high-school history curriculum. This provides yet another opportunity for Abina to be viewed through a new, yet equally important, lens.

Quoted Content:

  1. Chin, Daryl, and Larry Qualls. “Open Circuits, Closed Markets: Festivals and Expositions of Film and Video.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, vol. 23, no. 1, 2001, p. 33. Project MUSE [Johns Hopkins UP], doi:10.2307/3246488.
  2. “Film Festivals from European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia.” Film Festivals from European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia, by Marijke de. Valck, Amsterdam University Press, 2007, p. 30.

#documentary #filmfestival #Abinaandtheimportantmen #ConMoto #CAAM #Frameline #13th Gen #KQED #ClassicalArtsFilmFestival #TorontoBlackFilmFestival #TheAlexanderStringQuartet #Animation #Raindance #RaindanceWebFest #DocumentaryFilmInstitute #SFSU #SFStateLCA

Featured post

Pluralities Nonfiction Film Conference Full Schedule


Join us NOV 8th and 9th at San Francisco State University for an exciting line-up of filmmakers, researchers, performance, VR, and discussion about all things nonfiction. We welcome Kim Nelson and her team from University of Windsor in Canada with their live doc project 130 Year Road Trip, Kelly Gallagher from Antioch College with panels and workshops on animation and resistance, Jason Fox from Princeton University to discuss his World Records journal published by Union Docs and presenters from across the Bay Area and beyond including a niche distribution panel with Susie Hernandez from KQED, Daniel Moretti of Frameline, Masashi Niwano with CAAM and producer Marc Smolowitz and the Munduruku VR Amazon experience created by Alchemy VR with Greenpeace.

Check out the full schedule. Attendance is FREE.


Register for your FREE tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pluralities-tickets-38158856166


Kelly Gallagher is an experimental animator, filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Media Arts at Antioch College in Ohio. Her theoretical work investigates the radical and feminist possibilities of experimental animation. Her animations, experimental films and documentaries have screened internationally at venues including: Ann Arbor Film Festival, London ICA Artists’ Biennial, LA Film Forum, Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Traverse City Film Festival, and Anthology Film Archives. She is the recipient of the Ivan Kaljević Award from Alternative Film/Video Festival Belgrade, the Helen Hill Award from Indie Grits, the Audience Award from Brazil’s Fronteira Film Festival, and the Jury’s Choice Award from Black Maria Film Festival.

Kim Nelson is the Director of the Humanities Research Group and an Associate Professor in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Windsor in Canada. Her work has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council, the Windsor Endowment for the Arts and have screened at international film festivals and on university campuses in Canada, the US and Europe, as well as online with KCET in the US. Kim has held fellowships in Germany, Canada, and the US, and she has been a board member and programmer at the Windsor International Film Festival since 2010. Her current interest is in conceptualizing and creating live participatory cinema as an alternative future for screen culture.

Jason Fox is a filmmaker and lecturer at Princeton University. He has taught in the Graduate School of Cinema Studies at New York University, Vassar College, and Cooper Union. His award-winning work as a director, cinematographer, and editor has screened internationally in film festivals including Sundance, AFI Fest, and Venice, on broadcast television, and in gallery installation settings.  He has worked as a film programmer in conjunction with The American Museum of Natural History, The Flaherty Seminar, and the Museum of Modern Art, among other venues. He is a recipient of a Union Square Award for social justice, and he is also the founding editor of the peer-reviewed journal of documentary studies, World Records, published by UnionDocs in Brooklyn, NY.


Nov 8th & 9th – All Day

An Immersive VR Experience: Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon

Combining cutting-edge Virtual Reality filmmaking and multisensory storytelling, Munduruku opens a window into the lives, stories and struggle of the Munduruku Indigenous People in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

Wednesday, Nov 8th

9:00am: Coffee/Tea – All are welcome

9:10am-10:45am: In Resistance with Filmmaker Scholars

  • Kelly Gallagher (Antioch College): Animation as Power and Protest (working title)
  • Alexander Johnston (UC Santa Cruz): Evidence of Evidence
  • Kevin Pina (CSU, East Bay): Documenting Dissent

11:00am-12:00pm: Identity: Constructed, Deconstructed

  • Yuriko Romer (Independent Filmmaker): Diamond Diplomacy
  • Talena Sanders (Sonoma State University): Prospector
  • Nyssa Chow (Columbia University, NY): Still Life, A Digital Book

1:00pm-2:00pm: Consequences of Historical Rendering and Technology

  • Kim Nelson: Constructing a Historiophoty for/in the Digital Sublunar
  • Rob Nelson: Whether you Win or Lose, Bombing Civilians is Complicated: Strategies of Explanation in the Canadian and German Documentaries ‘Death by Moonlight’ (1992) and ‘Der Feuersturm’ (2003)

(Both from University of Windsor, Canada)

2:15pm-3:45pm: Innovation & Scholarship in Nonfiction Media Journals

  • Jason Fox: The Documentary Camera and World Records Journal, Princeton University
  • Alexander Johnston: Now!  Journal of Urgent Praxis
  • Soumyaa K. Behrens: Pluralities Journal, Documentary Film Institute
  • Kelly Gallagher: Now!  Journal of Urgent Praxis

3:45pm-4:15pm: Short Reception – Everyone welcome to attend

4:15pm-5:45pm: Emergent Stories: How Niche and Diaspora Films Impact Smaller Communities

  • Susie Hernandez from KQED
  • Masashi Niwano from Center for Asian American Media
  • Daniel Moretti from Frameline
  • Marc Smolowitz Independent Producer, 13th Gen

Thursday, Nov 9th

8:00am: Coffee/Tea – Everyone welcome to attend

8:20am-9:25am: Politics, Activism and Visibility in Golden Gate and Gezi Parks*

  • Cahal McLaughlin (Queens University Belfast): Introduction
  • Şirin Fulya Erensoy (Istanbul Kültür University): Documenting Injustice in a Time of Media Blackout
  • Soumyaa K. Behrens (SFSU): Nail House: Political Gentrification in San Francisco

* This panel is in collaboration with the Center for Documentary Research Conference at Queens University and will be conducted live and via Skype.

9:30am-11:00am: Small Hands-On Workshop with Kelly Gallagher

11:00am-12:20pm: Agency in Nonfiction: To Tell One’s Own Stories

  • Harjant Gill (Towson University): Exploring South Asian Masculinities Through Ethnographic Film
  • Emily Beitiks (SFSU): Documenting Disability
  • Aaron Dickinson Sachs (St. Mary’s College) & John Drew (Adelphi University): Cacao Stories, A Food Manifesto

2:10pm-3:45pm: 130 Year Road Trip (Performance, Live Documentary)

  • Kim Nelson, Rob Nelson, Lana Oppen, Brent Lee (University of Windsor)

3:45pm-5pm: Reception – All are welcome

7:30pm: Screening of Kelly Gallagher’s films at Artists Television Access

#pluralities #docfilminstitute #nonfiction #sfsu #130yearroadtrip #animateddocs #scholarfilmmaker #researchpractitioner #documentarydisrupted

Featured post

DEADLINE EXTENDED – PLURALITIES: Nonfiction Film Journal and Conference




We are excited to welcome Kim Nelson and her team from Windsor University to present a live documentary project that will close out our inaugural conference.

Kelly Gallagher, filmmaker, scholar and animation maven from Antioch College will also be in attendance to share her work and conduct a hands-on session with attendees. There will also be a special screening of Kelly’s films at ATA in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Our conference will also coincide with Queens University in Belfast, Ireland and we will be skyping in Cahal McLaughlin for a crossover session with the his new Doc Research Center.


The Documentary Film Institute announces a call for submissions to be included in their inaugural non-fiction film journal (first publication – Spring 2018) and conference to be held the Fall of 2017. Accepted submissions for the journal will be considered for the conference focused on opening a dialogue on non-fiction film scholarship and workshops towards the development of the Documentary Film Institute’s new journal, Pluralities.

This call is open to traditional papers, as well as PPT presentations, multi-media presentations, digital book chapters, new media and any other innovative ways of delivering scholarship on your research. Film projects, archives, exhibits, and installations are also invited.

All work related to nonfiction film history, theory and practice are welcome as well as projects from any discipline that has an intersection with the medium. In particular, the Institute values work that investigates global justice, cultural equity, democracy, the environment, the urban experience and underrepresented voices and stories. A focus on innovations in nonfiction film production and theory are also of interest including animated histories, performance art, experimental approaches, data visualization, mapping and the examination of theoretical concepts framing these approaches. All submissions will be considered.

Conference Deadline Extended: Oct 2, 2017

Journal Deadline Extended: October 20, 2017

Journal Notification date: January 31, 2018

Submit proposals to sfsudocfilm@gmail.com with subject heading: “Pluralities Submission”

Paper proposals should include bio, short abstract (300 words) and bibliography. Ultimately Papers/Presentations should be between 5-25 pages in length formatted in Chicago Style.

Projects submissions should include bio, project description and links to the work or work samples that demonstrate the work you wish to have considered.


Fall 2017 – November 8th & 9th

Location: San Francisco State University

Pluralities: A Project of San Francisco State University’s Documentary Film Institute

It is urgent, in these times, to secure spaces where democratic conversations can occur. Documentary film is one of the most powerful tools we have to research and reflect on our collective human experience and create connections to better ourselves. There is currently no single hub for global conversations around documentary film and how it illuminates and intervenes in the social issues defining our age.

San Francisco State University’s Documentary Film Institute plans to meet this need by creating Pluralities, a multi-media, digital journal. Pluralities will use nonfiction film to engage the humanities in nuanced dialogue. It will bring together a cosmopolitan group of thought leaders, creative thinkers and learning communities to participate in the same global exchange as documentary filmmakers. Pluralities will also offer far-reaching avenues for national and international nonfiction filmmakers and scholars to exhibit, examine and exchange their work in one platform. In addition, it will provide an umbrella for the various creative and scholarly pursuits that are housed at the Documentary Film Institute.

The journal will function as an online and interactive space that identifies, experiments and innovates new forms of multi-media scholarship in the field using a no-fee open source platform. In addition, it will bring together thought leaders and creative professionals in bi-annual symposia and conference settings to further interrogate these new approaches to scholarship and intersectionality in the burgeoning areas of nonfiction film and the humanities. Pluralities’ vision is to be part academic journal, part aggregator of underserved global voices and part provocateur to the field of nonfiction film and the visualization of the humanities. The journal will feature the work of graduate students as well as columns that debate issues of representation and history in film in language accessible to a non-specialist public. The aim is to collect multiple versions of reality in one space in order to question the possibility of any master narrative, filling in the holes of history and the present with experiential knowledge and self-critique.

The Bay Area is the birthplace of nonfiction film and, as a center of cultural, political and technological innovation, the region remains a hotbed for documentary filmmaking. As a university dedicated to global justice, equity and accessibility, and rooted in cross-cultural studies, SF State is the most compelling place to ground an innovative multi-media, digital journal for nonfiction film. The university’s values and the extraordinary diversity of our students, faculty and staff empower us to give agency to underrepresented communities all over the globe.


The Documentary Film Institute functions as a production hub and incubator in which individual filmmakers, researchers, community members and entrepreneurs pursue a variety of projects, whether they are emerging talents or established veterans. It supports applied research initiatives and critical discourse, from large-scale grants relating to documentation to conferences on the documentary tradition. Since its inception in 2005, the Institute has screened more than 120 films and hosted more than 40 visiting filmmakers for more than 12,000 attendees.

Journal Editor: Soumyaa K. Behrens

Featured post

Summer Screenings!


Mark your calendars for Doc Film’s summer screenings!  We are honored and excited to be included in the SF Black Film Festival!  Our animated feature, Abina and The Important Men, is an official selection of this year’s program.  The film screens at the beautiful Koret Auditorium in the deYoung Museum on June 16th at 6pm with Q/A and reception to follow.  Tickets for this event are free to encourage as many community members to attend as possible.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/6pm-8pm-friday-koret-auditorium-de-young-museum-50-hagiwara-tea-garden-dr-tickets-34923927407

Abina tells the story of a young enslaved woman in Africa who takes her master to court under British Rule in the late 1800’s.  It is adapted from a graphic novel of the same name, authored by historian Trevor Getz and illustrated by Liz Clarke.  The book is based on Abina’s actual court transcripts and was awarded the James Harvey Robinson prize.  The film is voiced by students, faculty and staff of SFSU representing Theatre, Cinema, Music, Ethnic Studies, Design & Industry, History, Administration and the Associated Students Inc.

Check out the trailer, too!


CON MOTO: The Alexander String Quartet

Later this summer, get your groove on with our Television premiere of Con Moto: The Alexander String Quartet.  The film has screened at international festivals and airs on KQED’s Truly CA series on August 18th at 8pm.   Mark your calendars!

Con Moto follows the world-class musicians on the road in Poland as they play Beethoven and share their talents and legacy with Polish audiences.

Written by, Soumyaa K. Behrens

Featured post

Barbara Hammer & Cheryl Dunye in Conversation

The legacy of the SFSU School of Cinema is nothing short of remarkable.  In our most recent forum, we had the opportunity to indulge in that history with film pioneer, Barbara Hammer, alumna and renegade of the Cinema program.  The juicy dialogue led by another SFSU Cinema phenom, Cheryl Dunye, wrapped up Hammer’s visit to campus and master class with aspiring graduate and undergraduate students in the program.

docfilm forum title card

Students take part in the conversation, populating the studio audience and posing questions to Hammer and Dunye that are interesting and provocative.  Hammer and Dunye give generously of themselves and share their past experiences with incredible candor.  They don advice on shooting those intimate love scenes, share moments of questioning their own work and desires and ultimately land on the most important tool each one has to create and continue creating.  For Barbara, it was the Hammer and for Cheryl it was the Dun and the Ye.  All they need is all they have.  The uniqueness of their beings and the courage to reckon with themselves is what they rely upon – and that is all any artist needs to achieve her vision.

It was a delicious afternoon for all who were there.  But, if you weren’t, take a look at how it went down.

Barbara Hammer’s visit to SFSU was co-sponsored by The School of Cinema, The School of Art, Queer Cinema Institute, Documentary Film Institute and the College of Liberal & Creative Arts.  Hammer presented her new film, Welcome To This House to the SFSU community and general public.  She held a master class with graduate and undergraduate students in the School of Cinema and visited classes to view student work.  She was honored with the inaugural Barbara Hammer scholarship presented by the Queer Cinema Institute and won by John Edward Serafica (former DocFilm Intern Extraordinaire)

Written By Soumyaa K. Behrens

Featured post

Open Access Publishing Hot Topic at #SCMS17

DocFilm just returned from this year’s SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies) conference in the big old city of Chicago.  Not as gritty as I remember it from days past, Chicago is hip, happening, and operating at warp speed.  There were wireless “charging rings” for your devices in the coffee shops, not to mention mobile ordering and pick-up at Starbucks.  The smart elevators in the AON center whisked you up to the 80th so fast you got a bit of a head rush from it.  And, one of the most interesting discussions at this year’s event was also concerned with the inter-future of academic publishing, aka the open access model.

open access scms17 chicago

There were two workshops dedicated to the topic and a flurry of the biggest gatekeepers of profit, non-profit and alternative forms of book and journal publication as well as the new guard of revolutionary writers, bloggers and scholars who are aiming to democratize the system and a couple people who seem to fall in both of those categories… The big question at hand: is open access a revolutionary model or just another way for the major players to control the system?  Can it possibly be a sustainable form for sharing research without the traditional backing of book sales and publishers’ prestigious marquees?

There is a whirlwind of new websites out there with the explicit intention to share, share widely and share freely.  Things like Critical Commons, Film Studies for Free, Academia.edu, (in) media res, Lever Press and SCMS backed [in]Transition.  Many of these initiatives spun into being as a response to the Budapest Open Access Initiative which was first published (online) in 2002.  There are countless additional sites that uphold its vision for free access via the arts, sciences, humanities, and social disciplines.  This has also given way to multi-platform approaches to creating scholarship using live annotations, film and audio clips and other creative renderings to deepen the relationship between the reader and the researcher, speak to a more global audience and include non-academic writers who may have just as much to contribute to the conversation.

Sustainability remains the key challenge to this rebellious effort meant to level the playing field of academia and research as something reserved only for the intelligent elite.   Many of these websites have also closed up shop after burning out from handling every aspect of publication themselves due to little or no funding or simply been unable to raise the minimum amount needed to keep their initiative alive.  And, alive, on the internet, is a very real problem.  Outdated pages, expired links, journeys to Error 404 abound.  There’s nothing more stinky than a rotten internet corpse.  Without regular maintenance, a system or platform to retain embedded data and, of course, M-O-N-E-Y, these efforts all have an eventual end.  As Mary Francis of University of Michigan Press pointed out (she was a panelist and vocal audience member), less and less people have the need to publish as tenured positions at University are decreasing at a rapid pace and Universities are saving that cash by bringing on the dreaded “adjunct” faculty instead.  If there is no professional need to publish, what then?  She also stressed that the processes of the presses have not really changed.  Yes, they now sometimes offer an open access version of a book or journal but not much else has evolved.  She wondered if we are looking in the right place to resolve this issue of inclusion, access and democracy among academics.

With 2020 swiftly approaching, so does a new referendum by the European Union entitled Horizon2020.  All scientific research papers that are produced under publicly funded initiatives must be made available for free.   We will see who’s ready (and who’s not) to capitalize on this when the new decade dawns.   At DocFilm we are eager to take part in this dialogue and help facilitate it.  We are busily constructing programs, initiatives and strategic partnerships to launch our own open access, multi-media nonfiction journal (working title) Pluralities.  Using the engagement with the so-called real as a center, the journal will mesh theory and practice of nonfiction film, explicitly connect with other disciplines in hopes to visualize, digitize and democratize research, media, and innovative reflections on reality.

open access scms17 chicago

Many many thanks to the SCMS17 for hosting these workshops and the fascinating individuals who structured the conversation as well as those who participated in it.

Workshop G5: Film and Media Studies in the Digital Era

Chaired by Caroline Edwards with Jefferson Pooley, Katie Gallof and Anna Froula

Workshop N16: Open Access Book Publishing

Chaired by Eric Hoyt with Mary Francis, Nedda Ahmed, Vicki Mayer (whose open access book I just downloaded), Lea Jacobs and Ben Brewster

Both with extremely vocal and sometimes adversarial crowds to whom I am also grateful.

Written by Soumyaa K. Behrens, Photos by Robert Barbarino

Featured post

Be A Green Gator: #SustainableSFSU


Hey Gators, ever wonder where your trash goes after you throw it away? Be a Green Gator is an informative video that shows the lifecycle of your trash, recycle, and compost at SFSU. Waste management is crucial knowledge because throwing away trash has huge impacts on our global environment. For a healthy environment, it is important to know what trash bins to use to dispose your waste. Click the link for more information on correct Trash Bin Usage and share the video with other SF State students for a #SustainableSFSU

This project was developed through the Emerging Leaders Program at San Francisco State University.  DocFilm DIrector, Soumyaa Behrens graduated from the program and helped expand composting, green procurement and education surrounding the three bin system along with team members: Constance Cavallas, Caitlin Steele, Dylan Mooney, Jonathan Foerster, David Chelliah, Megan Dobbyn and Peter Le.

The animation was a collaborative effort by the DocFilm team and student assistants Daewon Kim and Kylie Pisciotto.

#SFSU #Docfilm #Trashbinusage #Wastemanagement #Greengator #Recycle #Compost #Trash

#EmergingLeaders #SustainableSFSU

Featured post

DocFilm Forum: Barbara Hammer Master Class Conversation

DocFilm friends and community members,

Visual artist, filmmaker and SFSU alumna Barbara Hammer will be joining State students, faculty, staff and guests for a screening of her 2015 documentary, Welcome to this House on February 10th. Details of this public event can be found below.

On February 11th DocFilm will be recording the Master Class conversation with Barbara Hammer and Professor Cheryl Dunye as part of their ongoing series DocFilm Forum. 

DocFilm Forums are ongoing dialogues that investigate the urgent issues of our time by bringing together experts in the field of Documentary, alongside Social Justice Leaders, NGO Directors, Writers and Policy Makers.  Forums are held in front of a live audience and taped for broadcast and sharing at later dates.

Barbara Hammer

Our Fall 2016 Forum featured a conversation on the film Peace Officer and can be viewed here.

Featured post

DocFilm Forum: Peace Officer

America is a country where the individual can make a difference. It is a place where one human being challenges the system and changes it by his efforts. What happens when that change takes on a life of its own and becomes an unruly monster that no individual can manage? This question lies at the heart of the recent documentary, Peace Officer.

7-Dub investigates Mathew Stewart home - Brad Barber pic

William “Dub” Lawrence investigates Mathew Stewart home – still from “Peace Officer”

William “Dub” Lawrence is responsible for the creation of the first SWAT team in Utah. His work was intended to make policing safer for everyone involved. But, when a member of his family finds himself engaged with Utah SWAT, everything goes wrong. Dub takes it upon himself to investigate the incident and it opens the door to a number of other cases with similar results. Peace Officer follows him on this quest.

We sat down with filmmakers Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson to analyze this and other related issues the film illustrates. We also invited the film editor, Renny McCauley, John Mutz, a retired LA Station Commander, Barbara Attard of Accountability Associates, the founder of a citizen oversight organization, and Britta Sjogren, Director of the School of Cinema at SFSU to examine and debate the impact of militarization in our national police forces.

Scott Christopherson and Renny McCauley are both distinguished graduates of the MFA in Cinema program at SFSU.

DocFilm Forums are ongoing dialogues that investigate the urgent issues of our time by bringing together experts in the field of Documentary, alongside Social Justice Leaders, NGO Directors, Writers and Policy Makers.  Forums are held in front of a live audience and taped for broadcast and sharing at later dates.


Don’t Get Hurt By That Glass Ceiling

Some events cannot be explained away as cosmic coincidence.


Hours before yesterday’s votes were counted, I sat discussing with my producers Soumyaa and Robert how best to present the feminist voice in our movie, Madame Mars: Women and the Quest for Worlds Beyond. Soumyaa suggested we employ the “oppressed gaze,” a well-worn trope used in film/literature theory to represent the idea that there is intrinsic power awarded to the person who gets to do the looking. In traditional novels and movies, the “male gaze” dominates. As spectators, we share that gaze with the camera, director and leading men. The primary recipient of the gaze, the objectified female, has no reciprocal “gazing” power.

We talked about the fact that women were not allowed to look through major telescopes until the 1960s. That American women were not allowed to view the Earth from space until the 1980s. That no matter how capable, how prepared, how passionate or how hard they work, there have been dreams that women could not achieve, just because they were women.

We never thought to discuss that a woman could not become our president in 2016. That came later, last night.

When the space age began, both Hillary Clinton and I (along with many other girls of our era) expressed our desire to become astronauts, but were told we could not. This was more than an escapist fantasy, I think, but rather a desire to enter and explore uncharted territories: deep space, the oval office.

How is space exploration different from the U.S. presidency when, historically, both have been denied to women? How is any quest to achieve a long cherished goal any different when nonsensical barriers like glass ceilings are placed in the way?

To reach a goal, some one must first be able to look at it. Gazing at the proverbial glass ceiling is next to impossible. The glass is transparent, not restricting the view of the dreams that lie beyond it, but preventing progress toward the goal nonetheless. It’s a profoundly false view.

My own brand of feminism, emanating from the same generation as Hillary Clinton’s, fights the oppressed gaze because it makes us angry. The inability to look at whatever we want, whenever we choose, should not be gender-dependent.

The post-election detail that upset me most this morning was reading that Clinton had planned to celebrate with her supporters beneath a glass ceiling that would symbolically shatter. Instead I think workers carefully removed the elaborate prop and stored it away. The glass ceiling remains intact.

Glass ceilings are always there and always will be, whether represented by the lens of the telescope, the window of a spaceship, or the view looking out into the White House Rose Garden.

If the barrier can’t be shattered, then it’s the dream that’s in danger of being shattered to pieces. But there’s another way to look at it: the glass, whether in the ceiling or in the sky, can also be used to focus the view more clearly.

Our awareness of such a barrier – even if we are not able to break it – is painful but necessary. We have to take a long, hard look to see what the barrier reveals, then refocus our gaze toward finding ways to explore what lies beyond.

By Jan Millsapps, Director of Madame Mars: Women and The Quest for Worlds Beyond.