Tag Archives: film

University Archives Acquires Owens Documentary Materials

As part of a campus-wide initiative to commemorate 50 years of integration at Duke, the Graduate School and filmmaker Ivan Weiss contributed “The Education of Ida Owens,” a documentary about the first African-American female to earn a PhD at the university.

Balancing Dr. Owens’s personal story with Duke’s own integration, and the national Civil Rights movement more broadly, the documentary is well worth a view. A copy is available on YouTube and Vimeo. Take half and hour and watch it, if you haven’t. This post will still be here when you get back.

In late 2014, the University Archives received a bundle of materials related to the documentary. In addition to the completed video files, we also received a bevy of additional materials fleshing out the release of the documentary; Dr. Owens’s background; and the filmmaking process itself. It is these latter items that warrant specific mention. For each person interviewed by the filmmakers there exists video footage, audio recordings, and text transcripts. Because multiple camera people worked on the project, having access to these clips allows insight into the editing process, as well content that did not make the final cut of the video.

Ida Stephens Owens, undated
Ida Stephens Owens, undated. From the University Archives Photograph Collection.

Our descriptive record of the materials is here for perusal. The materials themselves can be seen in the Rubenstein Library reading room. Because many of the files themselves are quite large, please make any requests in advance, as it will take some time to transfer the materials from our servers to a computer terminal able to view the files.

Like any period, the present decade marks a series of fiftieth anniversaries. And like any anniversary, the anniversary of Duke’s integration and impending anniversary of Dr. Owens’s PhD completion, serve to call attention to landmark events while also allowing us to reflect on the great deal of work ahead. This documentary and the supporting materials recently added to the University Archives are a testament to both.

Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.

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.

A Journey’s End

A couple of weeks ago the finding aid for the Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection was posted on the Rubenstein Library website. The audiovisual collection, which is now opened for research, has a fascinating variety of materials, including film reels, vinyl records, and audio cassettes reflecting Doris’ interests in travel, music, the performing arts, and historical events. It’s chock-full of surprises for those willing to delve into the detailed and intricate collection. Homemade recordings of Doris practicing the piano and singing, four original nitrate film reels of the Nazi Supreme Court Trial of the Anti-Hitler Plot from 1944-45 (which we’re presuming Doris obtained while working for the Office of Strategic Services [OSS] during World War II), and a somewhat sketchy telephone interview with Howard Hughes from the 1970s are just a few of the treasures awaiting discovery in this collection.


The Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection also marks a significant milestone for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives. It is the final collection in the historical archives to be processed, described, and opened for research, thus ending my three year processing journey.

Working so intimately with the materials has been quite a remarkable experience, and not surprisingly I’ve grown quite attached to both Doris Duke and the materials over the past three years! The nineteen collections comprising the historical archives are filled with artifacts and clues that leave evidence of a woman who did big things, yet they also give insight to unexpected and hidden facets of Doris’ life. Collectively they paint a picture of Doris that challenges the general perception of her as an eccentric and tragic figure.

While I am sincerely grateful for having had the opportunity to process and promote the materials in the historical archives, I am equally thankful for having had the chance to meet researchers and patrons interested in both Doris Duke and the historical archives. Their enthusiasm for learning more about her spurred several of the events, exhibits, and digital initiatives developed during the course of the processing project.

And so a journey for me ends, but the journey for the materials in the historical archives continues!

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, the former Doris Duke Collection Archivist. Mary will continue in the Technical Services Dept. as the Processing Archivist for the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

Wooshes, Whistles, Crowd Roars, and Seal Screams

"Footage of Ocean" Reel from the Freewater Films CollectionThe name Freewater Films is perhaps best known for the film series it puts on in the Bryan Center. But in addition to these screenings, it is also responsible for providing workshops and support for amateur film-making by Duke students and community members.

The origins of Freewater Productions Films can be traced to 1969, when the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation gave funds for students from the Duke University Union Visual Arts Committee to make a 16mm film. In November 1970, several students produced an original film (called Dying), using a 16mm Bolex camera borrowed from the Union. Described by the maker as “a woman’s surrealistic encounter on an island,” Dying went on to win first prize at the Association of College Unions’ 1971 International Film Festival.

Over the years, Duke students produced a number of cutting-edge films under the auspices of Freewater, ranging from documentaries on urban Durham to science fiction and horror films set in the Duke Hospital. (The 1984 film A Medical Scutwolf in Durham tells the story of a doctor who becomes a werewolf.)

Sound Effects Reels from the Freewater Films CollectionSaved in a variety of formats—including DVDs, VHS, Betamax, and 16 mm film—the Freewater Productions Films archives are now housed at Duke University Archives. They have recently been arranged in order by date, format, and title. In some cases, “unofficial” titles had to suffice, as in the reel titled “Footage of Ocean,” pictured above. Those that arrived in rusty cans or unstable cardboard boxes were transferred to archival plastic “cans.”

Pictured at left is a group of 21 sound effects from the collection, labeled as: “wooshes, whistles, crowd roars, and seal screams.”

We’re looking forward to the day when these historic films may be screened again!

Post contributed by Jessica Wood, William E. King intern for the 2011-2012 academic year.

New Day Films Events at Full Frame to Celebrate Rubenstein Library Acquisition

The founders of New Day Films. Back row:  Amalie R. Rothschild, Julia Reichert, Jim Klein.  Front: Liane Brandon
The founders of New Day Films. Back row: Amalie R. Rothschild, Julia Reichert, Jim Klein. Front: Liane Brandon

The Rubenstein Library is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of the New Day Films Collection. The collection includes the founding films and organizational records of New Day founders Liane Brandon, Jim Klein, Julia Reichert, and Amalie R. Rothschild. Documenting a pioneering film distribution company and collective, the first to distribute feminist films in the early 1970s, the New Day Films Collection is an important record of both New Day’s formation and the Feminist Movement.  New Day Films is a thriving organization, celebrating 40 years in 2012 as a participatory democratic filmmakers’ cooperative with 120 members and 250 titles. The Rubenstein is committed to preserving the New Day Films Collection for future generations to make this record of the evolution of progressive independent American filmmaking available for teaching and research.

In celebration of New Day coming to Duke, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will screen New Day’s founding films—Anything You Want to Be (Brandon), Betty Tells Her Story (Brandon), Growing Up Female (Klein, Reichert), and It Happens to Us (Rothschild)—on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 4:50pm.   There will be a panel conversation with all four founding members about New Day’s exceptional history on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 9:30AM.

Film still from Growing Up Female, Jim Klein and Julia Reichert

For more information on the New Day Films Collection at the Rubenstein, see: http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/documentaryarts/events/

For more information on the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, including a complete schedule and ticket information, see:  http://www.fullframefest.org/

For more information on New Day Films, see:  http://www.newday.com/


Jared Harris, Student Filmmaker

On Sunday, Jared Harris resumes his role as Lane Pryce on Mad Men. (Read Duke Magazine‘s recent profile on Mr. Harris.)

On March 30, 1984, he was a Trinity senior, premiering his and classmate Jeff Bennett’s feature-length film, Darkmoor, at the Bryan Center. Supported by Freewater Films, the film was his senior thesis and ended up requiring a budget of $60,000, owing in part to the fact that three-quarters of the film had to be re-shot after the lead actor graduated and wasn’t able to complete his final scenes.

Jared Harris and Jeff Bennett, The Chronicle, September 23, 1982
Jared Harris and Jeff Bennett (and dog), The Chronicle, September 23, 1982

In interviews, Mr. Harris describes the film only as a “psychological thriller.” There’s an orphaned boy who shows up just at the right moment and a father who doesn’t. There’s a Bryan Center art show with a painting by Picasso and a psychiatric ward somewhere in Duke Hospital. There are references to Carl Jung’s theories and T. S. Eliot’s poetry (Harris’ Program II curriculum included English literature classes), as well as so many hints at the power of advertising and subliminal messages that we  wonder if Harris knew where he’d end up 28 years later.

There’s also former Duke President Terry Sanford in a cameo as a jaded psychology professor.

Reviews from The Chronicle and the Durham Sun suggest that Sanford proved quite the capable actor, but we can’t offer our own opinion, because the Duke University Archives doesn’t have a copy of the film. The records of the Duke University Union contain only a not-quite-final draft of the script that suggests that Darkmoor Shaw, the film’s main character, started out as Darkmoor Kilgore.

Here’s the scene, early in the film, where Darkmoor acquires his first name.



Alex is on the lawn with her child, who is crawling around in front of her. She picks the child up, sets him on the ground in front of her, and gives him a little push. The child waddles off away from the mother. Alexandra starts to call names after him.


 “William, Richard, Joseph, Randy—no wait, I take that back, Philip, Arthur, Nicholas, Archibald (she winces) Robert, Jeff. . . (she stops) Martin, Perrygwyne, Darkmoor. . .”

The child turns around and looks inquiringly at his mother.



The child starts to crawl to his mother. She goes over to him and picks him up.


“What a strange name to choose for yourself, you funny little fellow, but I like it. Alright, then, Darkmoor it is.”

According to Mr. Harris, the idea for this scene came from his (late) father, Richard Harris, the venerated British actor. With such an impressive pedigree, we’re relieved that a copy of the script exists in the Duke University Archives. And Mr. Harris, if you still have a copy of the film, could we please borrow it?

Invitation to Darkmoor premiere, March 30, 1984.
Invitation to Darkmoor premiere, March 30, 1984.

And, for those of you who can’t get enough Mad Men, watch The Devil’s Tale over the next few weeks for news about the next event in the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History’s 25th Anniversary Lecture Series. On April 10th, the center will be welcoming Charlotte Beers, former Chairman/CEO of Ogilvy & Mather and Under Secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. Find more information on the Hartman Center’s homepage!

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.

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.