Tag Archives: documentary

“The Guardians of History,” a Documentary

Mary Samouelian, the Heschel Processing Archivist here at the Rubenstein Library, has created a short documentary. “The Guardians of History” features seven archivists working in our Technical Services Department and explores why archivists do what we do.  In Mary’s words, the documentary “reveals our intimate relationship with the historical materials we work with, why we are drawn to the mission of preserving history, and how our work makes it possible for researchers, historians, writers, and the general public to discover and experience intimate connections between their lives and historical materials.”

Mary enrolled as a student at the CDS in 2011 and this documentary piece is her final project for the Certificate in Documentary Arts. The photographs associated with the documentary will be exhibited on the Student Wall in Perkins Library this coming Friday.

Congratulations to Mary on this wonderful work!

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Rights! Camera! Action!: The Undocumented (Director’s Cut)

Date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Full Frame Theater on the American Tobacco Campus (directions & parking information)
Contact: Patrick Stawski, patrick.stawski(at)duke.edu

Marcos Hernandez lives and works in Chicago. He came to the United States from Mexico, after a life-threatening border crossing through the Sonora Desert in southern Arizona. Each month, he sends money to his mother in Mexico City to buy medicine for his brother, Gustavo, who needs a kidney transplant. The Undocumented, by acclaimed filmmaker Marco Williams, is Marcos’s story—as well as the story of countless other migrants.

Chronicling Arizona’s deadliest summer months, award-winning documentary and fiction film director Marco Williams (Banished, Two Towns of Jasper, In Search of Our Fathers) weaves Marcos’s search with the efforts of humanitarians and Border Patrol agents who are fighting to prevent migrant deaths, the medical investigators and Mexican Consulate workers who are trying to identify dead border crossers, and Mexican families who are struggling to accept the loss of a loved one.

Poster for Screening of The Undocumented

In true cinéma vérité style, The Undocumented (91:00 TRT; 2013 Full Frame Honorable Mention for Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights) reveals the ongoing impact of immigration laws and economic policies on the very people who continue to be affected by them. By going beyond politics, the film also tells a story that is deeply personal.

The screening, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a panel discussion featuring director Marco Williams and Duke University professor Charlie Thompson.

Rights!Camera!Action! is sponsored by the Archive of Documentary Arts and the Human Rights Archive in the Rubenstein Library, the Duke Human Rights Center @ FHI, and the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image.

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Portraits from Charleston

The Archive of Documentary Arts continues its monthly series highlighting work in our holdings that has been digitized. This month we are spotlighting the Michael Francis Blake Photographs, 1912-1934. The collection includes 117 photographs of men, women, and children taken between 1912-1934 by Michael Francis Blake. Blake opened one of the first African-American photography studios in Charleston, S.C. and the photographs represent his work from the 1910s to his death in 1934.  The images come from a photographic album entitled “Portraits of Members,” which might have been used by clients in the studio to select the backdrop and props they wanted in their photographs. To see more of Michael Francis Blake’s photographs, visit the library’s digital collection.

Post contributed by Kirston Johnson, Moving Image Archivist, and Karen Glynn, Photography Archivist, Archive of Documentary Arts.

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Gedney’s Cars

With this post, the Archive of Documentary Arts inaugurates a monthly series highlighting work in our holdings that has been digitized. Our first post “Gedney’s Cars” celebrates the work of photographer William Gedney and his fascination with cars and people’s behavior/relationship with automobiles.  All four of the photographs below are untitled and were taken in Kentucky in 1972.  To see more of Gedney’s work in our digital collections, visit http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gedney/.  William Gedney’s life’s work is housed in the Archive of Documentary Arts.

Post contributed by Karen Glynn, Photography Archivist, and Kirston Johnson, Moving Image Archivist, Archive of Documentary Arts.

Still from Oil Blue

Oil Blue (Väylä)

This is the fourth in a series highlighting film shorts from the Full Frame Archive, a collection within the Archive of Documentary Arts that preserves masters of all past winners of Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The Full Frame Archive has acquired 79 films since 2007 and continues to grow; DVD use copies of these films can be viewed in the Rubenstein Library reading room. The Full Frame Archive finding aid provides a complete list with descriptions, as well as titles of award-winners not yet acquired.

Oil Blue opens to long shots of only sea and sky, vast and awe-inspiring.  Not until after the two-minute mark does any sign of humankind appear, when a gigantic oil tanker slowly moves across the screen.  Finnish film student Elli Rintala sought to make a film about the North Sea oil industry, but not a conventional documentary. “I wanted to explore the area between experimental film and documentary film.” Oil Blue won the 2009 Full Frame President’s Award for the best student film.

Still from Oil Blue

“On the coastline of my hometown Porvoo is situated the biggest oil harbor and oil refinery of Scandinavia,” she explained to me by email.  “I remember that as a child I was fascinated by the massive ships moving slowly in the horizon. . . . Of course I could have made a more traditional and more informative documentary on this subject, but somehow I wanted to maintain the viewpoint of a child, which shows the vessels as a mystery.”

Filming at sea was not easy. “Because the conditions were quite demanding we had to plan everything in advance as precisely as possible. Every image and every angle had to be known beforehand, we couldn’t improvise that much. But I think that all that planning was a great advantage for the film.”

Rintala was granted access to film aboard the oil tankers without much difficulty, however. “Neste Oil, the company which owns the refinery and the tankers, was very cooperative from the very beginning. . . . [They] realized that my aim was not to make a provocative or accusing film.”

But the strict security regulations were a challenge. “Any electrically powered cameras or equipment were prohibited on the deck because of the danger of an explosion. So we had to use a very old spring-wound Bolex camera when shooting on the deck. . . .

“Part of the material is shot from a tiny inflatable in order to get as close to the water level as possible.”  Filming on a raft presented its own challenges.  “Occasionally the swell of the sea was quite strong and naturally that made the filming more difficult. Once our camera-assistant even threw up during the filming.”

The absence of words in the film compel the viewer to listen—to the sounds of the ocean and machines and to the evocative musical score.  “In general I like the way the music and the sound design coalesce in the Oil Blue. The structure of the film is quite musical in any case. One person said to me, that it is possible to watch it the same way you listen to ambient music. This was a great compliment for me, because my aim was that the images could be like music.”

Although Rintala wants to leave any message in Oil Blue open to interpretation, she says it “could be seen as an allegory of our life style also in a more general way. The oil transportations are only one example of this balance of terror between human race, technology and nature, which is so typical for our time.”

Rintala is currently at work on her graduation film “about the main airport of Finland, Helsinki-Vantaa and the development of air traffic from 1950s to this day. I’m going to use archive material and current footage to portray the lost innocence of flying in our time. So from the element of water in Oil Blue I’m moving on to the element of air.”

Post contributed by Tanya Lee, Full Frame Archive Intern.

Still from Good Times

Rights! Camera! Action!: Good Times

Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Franklin Humanities Institute Garage, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse (map)
Contact Information: Patrick Stawski, 919-660-5823 or patrick.stawski(at)duke.edu, or Kirston Johnson, 919-681-7963 or kirston.johnson(at)duke.edu

Still from Good TimesJoin us for a screening of Good Times (31 minutes, Hebrew/ Arabic/ English with English subtitles), the second film in the 2011-2012 Rights! Camera! Action! series and the winner of the 2004 Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short.

Good Times was shot in Abu Dis, a small Palestinian village divided in two by a wall built by the Israeli government. The film follows the villagers’ lives before the wall was built and through the construction of a temporary, then a permanent, wall. Moving in colliding microcosms, the inhabitants of the village and the Israeli soldiers protecting the border create an absurd routine of mutual respect and resentment.

Following the film, students from Duke’s BorderWork(s) Humanities Lab will give a presentation on their work this semester.

The screening is free and open to the public, and free popcorn will be provided!

The Rights! Camera! Action! film series, which is sponsored by the Archive for Human Rights, the Archive of Documentary Arts, the Duke Human Rights Center, the Franklin Humanities Institute, and Screen/Society at Duke’s Arts of the Moving Image Program, features documentaries on human rights themes that were award winners at the annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The films are archived at the Rubenstein Library, where they form part of a rich and expanding collection of human rights materials. This screening is also co-sponsored by the BorderWork(s) Humanities Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Rights! Camera! Action!: The Betrayal

Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Franklin Humanities Institute Garage, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse (map)
Contact Information: Patrick Stawski, 919-660-5823 or patrick.stawski(at)duke.edu, or Kirston Johnson, 919-681-7963 or kirston.johnson(at)duke.edu

The fourth season of the popular Rights! Camera! Action! film series begins with The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), winner of the Spectrum Award at the 2008 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Filmed over the course of 23 years,  this is the epic story of a Lao soldier family’s journey from war-torn Laos to the mean streets of New York. Thavisouk Phrasavath describes his own life as a young man struggling to survive a war and survive the hardships of immigrant life, counterpointed by his mother’s astonishing tale of perseverance. Renowned cinematographer Ellen Kuras’ directorial debut is a remarkable collaboration with Phrasavath—a poetic, cinematically-resonant film about the hidden, human face of war’s “collateral damage.”

A discussion with co-director Thavisouk Phrasavath will follow the film. The screening is co-sponsored by the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Duke’s 2012 Winter Forum.

The Rights! Camera! Action! film series, which is sponsored by the Archive for Human Rights, the Archive of Documentary Arts, the Duke Human Rights Center, the Franklin Humanities Institute, and Screen/Society at Duke’s Arts of the Moving Image Program, features documentaries on human rights themes that were award winners at the annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The films are archived at the RBMSCL, where they form part of a rich and expanding collection of human rights materials.