AFS Documentary Tour
The enhanced documentary program at the University of Texas' Radio-Television-Film Department continues to bear excellent MFA fruit. Faculty filmmaker Paul Stekler proudly recounts the kudos bagged by recent MFA thesis docs from significant nonfiction film arbiters like PBS' Independent Lens and Sundance to a theatre near you. A few examples of recent RTF success stories on PBS are Diane Zander's Girl Wrestler and Heather Courtney's Los Trabajadores. Laura Dunn's UT MFA film, Green, won a Student Academy Award, and her first post-UT feature, The Unforeseen, premiered at Sundance and is now playing in theatres. Most recently, cinematographer PJ Raval's Trouble the Water won the Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at Sundance this year.
The upcoming Austin Film Society Documentary Tour presents three exemplary films, the latest to emerge from the MFA pipeline:
La Voie du Nord (The Way North): Shara Lange's doc shot during the 2005 riots throughout France, as well as the 2007 French presidential election, examines the plight of North African female immigrants – including Fatima Rhazi, Morocco's first female sports photographer – and their struggles to make lives for themselves in a new land. Stekler considers Lange's film "an amazing accomplishment" in that, traveling on her own to Marseille, she managed to win the trust of these immigrant Moroccan women to the point that they allowed her to spend the time she needed to document their lives in France. "To me," says Stekler, "Shara's film is a sharp look at the lives of women at the front lines of globalization in a rapidly changing Europe, and she does it through beautiful, sensitive portraits."
"Road to Tlacotepec": When his father, photographer Bob Mader, died in 2005, filmmaker Berndt Mader set out to finish his father's last roll of film in the small Mexican village of Tlacotepec – a town his father had visited and photographed 40 years earlier. "Berndt's journey," says Stekler, "is all about memory and family and loss. In the end, a film undertaken to better understand his father also helped him to understand himself. Berndt's film – which is also a road film – somehow manages to be both funny and uplifting. I tear up every time I watch it, but it also makes me feel good."
"Girls of Don Bosco": Kendra Dorty's short documentary follows a group of girls living in an orphanage in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, each of whom is seeking a safe place in today's Mexico. "As did Shara in France," Stekler explains, "Kendra did most of the production herself and committed to a lot of time in Mexico to get the access and trust she needed from these girls. There's an amazing scene, shot while a street fair is passing in front of the orphanage building, and we watch the girls inside as they watch it from a window. This is one of those totally visual moments where we learn everything we need to know, without any words at all. To me, this scene represents the full potential of documentary."
See Special Screenings for screening info.