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Sunday, Jan 7 at 7:30 pm


Screening to be followed by discussion with Lana Wilson and Emily Topper

“A work of art…a beautiful meditation on the value of life.” – San Francisco Chronicle

We are excited to kick off 2018 with a warm welcome for director Lana Wilson presenting a screening of her recent and highly-acclaimed documentary The Departure. Closely following a former punk-turned-Buddhist priest in Japan who specializes in helping those on the brink of suicide find reasons to want to keep moving forward, The Departure has been called “Poetic, profound, and devastating” by The Hollywood Reporterand has screened at festivals worldwide including Tribeca Film Festival, HotDocs International Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Camden International Film Festival,  and more.

After the screening, we invite you to stay for an intimate conversation between Wilson and her cinematographer Emily Topper on visualizing and actualizing a documentary shoot. From pre-visualizing a documentary shoot, to constructing an aesthetic world, storyboarding, making shot lists, drawing inspiration from references (not just film but also photographs, paintings + more), and knowing when and when not to follow your preset guidelines for visual style, this is sure to be a rare sneak peek at the inner workings of some of your favorites in the field. Come through for this unique opportunity to discuss all aspects of visualizing a documentary shoot and don’t miss the chance to glimpse inside the minds of one of the biggest documentaries of the past year!


The Departure

87 min., 2017

“Wilson’s film, a quiet wonder, emphasizes the courage it takes to choose the hard work of living.”
Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice

Ittetsu Nemoto, a former punk-turned-Buddhist-priest in Japan, has made a career out of helping suicidal people find reasons to live. But this work has come increasingly at the cost of his own family and health, as he refuses to draw lines between those he counsels and himself. The Departure captures Nemoto at a crossroads, when his growing self-destructive tendencies lead him to confront the same question his patients ask him: what makes life worth living?

The second documentary by award-winning director Lana Wilson (After Tiller), The Departure is a poetic and deeply moving film that contemplates death as a way of better understanding how we should live.


“It’s not often one can have a genuinely spiritual experience watching a movie. But that’s precisely what’s on offer with The Departure, Lana Wilson’s quietly galvanizing portrait of life, death and the thin places in between. A film that explores life’s toughest and most transcendent moments with tenderness, honesty and care.”
Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

“A work of art. A beautiful meditation on the value of life. By the way, this is a documentary. But after the first few seconds, you won’t even notice.”
David Lewis, The San Francisco Chronicle

87 min

Lana Wilson is an Emmy Award-winning and two-time Spirit Award-nominated director, writer, and producer based in New York. Her new film, The Departure, premiered in competition at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival to critical acclaim and was recently nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary. The Departure was called “A work of art” by the San Francisco Chronicle, “Poetic, profound, and devastating” by the Hollywood Reporter, and “A genuinely spiritual experience” by The Washington Post. The Departure had a 30-city US theatrical release starting with a held-over run at New York’s Metrograph, and will be nationally broadcast next year.

Wilson has also worked in television, including writing and producing the premiere episode of the documentary miniseries I Am Rebel for National Geographic Studios. Previously, Wilson was the Film and Dance Curator for Performa, the New York biennial of new visual art performance. Wilson’s work has been supported by Sundance Institute, ITVS, Candescent Films, Artemis Rising Foundation, Chicken & Egg Pictures, the Tribeca Film Institute, the IDA, NYSCA, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt, and holds a B.A. in Film Studies and Dance from Wesleyan University.

Emily Topper was born and raised in Baltimore, earned a BA from Swarthmore College in Literature, and an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Topper began work in documentary as an intern at PBS, where she hovered around the camera team with envy. In subsequent years, she spent years training in lighting on Hollywood narrative films. Her cinematography feature credits include the 2015 Emmy winner for Best Documentary, After Tiller, the 2018 Independent Spirit Award nominee for Best Documentary, The Departure, Ain’t In it For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm, All Fall Down, and Elemental. She also directed and produced All Fall Down, which premiered in competition at CPH: DOX in 2014. She is currently shooting a multi-year film about the effects of climate change on mountain farmers in the Andes of Peru.


Sunday, Jan 7
7:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Free with membership - $10


BROOKLYN, NY 11211 United States
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UnionDocs is grateful for support from:


UnionDocs Labs

Find out more about our Summer Documentary Lab and Collaborative Studio here!

World Records


We’ve launched our new peer-reviewed documentary journal World Records. Volume I, The Documentary Camera, is now online!