May 11, 2021 at 11:00 am – May 25, 2021 at 1:00 pm
An online series of UNDO Study Groups presented with World Records at Sheffield Doc Fest.
“Story itself has become part of the problem: there is an overemphasis on story—or at least the way stories have come to be told in the documentary films…by naming the problem, we are calling filmmakers, programmers, critics, and scholars into a conversation about why and how we must challenge this hegemonic norm that too clearly serves to perpetuate the market while actively changing very little.”
– Introduction, World Records Volume 5: Beyond Story
Born out of their joint manifesto, initially published in 2018, writers Alexandra Juhasz and Alisa Lebow extend their call to action to move “Beyond Story” in the latest volume of World Records. Celebrate its launch at Sheffield DocFest and be the first to respond. To invite readers in, we are hosting three UNDO Study Group sessions to unpack when and why story has become today’s pre-eminent mode for documentary and what gets lost when storied structures prevail. If you want to deeply engage and feedback on the writing, ideas, and contributor’s perspectives together in community, you’ll want in on this experience! It’s a mode of studying that we are doing our best to make social, participatory, rigorous and fun.
At these sessions taking place May 4, 11, and 18th at 11AM EST, we’ll dissect what’s wrong with “story” with contributors like Sam Green and Brett Story, or inquire whether stories are found or imposed with Paige Sarlin, Jem Cohen and Sindhu Thirumalaisamy, and work to uncover the role of gatekeepers encouraging these dominant modes of narrative with Cecilia Aldarondo, Samara Chadwick, Luke Robinson and Joshua Glick. These sessions will be facilitated by volume editors Alexandra Juhasz, Alisa Lebow and Jason Fox. We encourage attendance at all three for a full experience, but it’s not required.
Wait, What's an UNDO Study Group?
This is a format for discussion we’ve been developing at UnionDocs.We imagine it as a kind of grassroots book club, but for documentary art, focused on sharing ideas, urgent issues, and inventive approaches. It’s about sparking powerful discussion and deeper investigation, through reading, listening and responding in small, self-organized groups that together form a larger collective experience.
For this iteration, you’ll receive writing from the “Beyond Story” Volume ahead of its official launch, have the chance to pose questions, break out into small groups to discuss and define your ideas, and contribute back into a larger public dialogue to take place at the Volume Launch event that will trace the central issues raised in these texts.
The Study Groups will be 90 minutes sessions hosted on Zoom. Please note they will be recorded. For those registering to join, attendance at all three sessions is encouraged though not required.
Study Group 01: What’s Wrong with Story? – May 4th, 11am EST / 4pm BST
Featuring: Brett Story and Sam Green
Study Group 02: Are Stories Found or Imposed? – May 11th, 11am EST / 4pm BST
Featuring: Paige Sarlin, Jem Cohen, and Sindhu Thirumalaisamy
Study Group 03: Gatekeepers – May 18th, 11am EST / 4pm BST
Featuring: Cecilia Aldarondo, Samara Chadwick, Luke Robinson, and Joshua Glick
Alexandra Juhasz is Distinguished Professor of Film and Media Studies at CUNY Brooklyn College. She is the author of AIDS TV (1995), Women of Vision (2001), F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing, co-edited with Jesse Lerner (2005), and Learning from YouTube (2011). Dr. Juhasz is also the producer of the fake documentary feature films The Watermelon Woman (1997) and The Owls (2010), as well as many real documentaries.
Alisa Lebow is a Reader in Film Studies at the University of Sussex. Her publications include First Person Jewish (2008) and The Cinema of Me (2012) and numerous articles on aspects of documentary ranging from art and documentary to questions of the political in documentary. Lebow has also made several documentaries including Outlaw (1994), Treyf (1998), and For the Record: The World Tribunal on Iraq (2006).
Jason Fox is the editor of World Records.
Brett Story is a filmmaker and writer based out of Toronto. She is the director of the films The Prison in Twelve Landscapes and The Hottest August, and author of the book Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power Across Neoliberal America. She is Assistant Professor of Image Arts at Ryerson University and her work has received support from the Sundance Institute and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Paige Sarlin is is an artist, filmmaker, scholar political activist and Assistant Professor of Media at the University of Buffalo Her feature-length documentary film, The Last Slide Projector, premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2007 and she is completing a book-length manuscript entitled Interview-Work: The Genealogy of a Media Form.
Sindhu Thirumalaisamy is an artist and filmmaker. Her work centers (un)common spaces and the possibilities for speech and action with/in them. Thirumalaisamy is a Core artist-in-residence at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She holds an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego, and has been a participant of the Flaherty Seminar Fellowship, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Whitney Independent Study program.
Cecilia Aldarondo is a documentary director-producer from the Puerto Rican diaspora who works at the intersection of poetics and politics. Her feature documentaries Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016) and Landfall (2020) premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and were co-produced by the award-winning PBS series POV. Landfall’s many awards include the 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival Viewfinders Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary, as well as Cinema Eye and Spirit Award nominations. Among Aldarondo’s fellowships and honors include the Guggenheim, a two-time MacDowell Colony Fellowship, the 2021 New America Fellowship, and Women at Sundance 2017. In 2019 she was named to DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 list and is one of 2015’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. She teaches at Williams College.
Samara Chadwick is a filmmaker and film curator. Her first feature documentary, 1999, premiered in 2018 at Visions du réel and Hot Docs, and has since played festivals worldwide with broadcast and theatrical releases in Canada and Switzerland. As an independent curator, Samara currently programs for the Goethe-Institut and was most recently Senior Programmer for the Points North Institute and the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF). She has programmed films and conferences for the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM), Hot Docs, the Berlin Biennale, and served on juries at Sheffield Doc/Fest (UK), The New Horizons IFF (Poland), Sunny Side of the Doc (France), and FICFA (Canada).
Jem Cohen: Filmmaker/photographer Cohen’s feature-length films include Museum Hours, Counting, Chain, Benjamin Smoke, Instrument, and World Without End (No Reported Incidents). Shorts include Lost Book Found, Little Flags, and Anne Truitt – Working. His films are in the collections of NYC’s Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Jewish Museum, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, and Melbourne’s Screen Gallery. They have been broadcast by PBS, Arte, and the Sundance Channel. He’s had retrospectives at Harvard Film Archive, London’s Whitechapel Gallery, Indielisboa, BAFICI, Oberhausen, Gijon, and Punto de Vista Film Festivals. His multi-media show with live music, We Have an Anchor, was a main stage production in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave series, and at London’s Barbican. His current show of film with live soundtracks, Gravity Hill Sound+Image, has been presented in Istanbul, Porto, New York City, Nantes, and Knoxville, TN.
Rick Prelinger is an archivist, writer, filmmaker and Professor of Film & Digital Media at UC Santa Cruz. His collection of 60,000 ephemeral films was acquired by Library of Congress in 2002. His archival feature Panorama Ephemera (2004) played in venues around the world, and his feature project No More Road Trips? received a Creative Capital grant in 2012. His 27 Lost Landscapes participatory urban history projects have played to over 45,000 viewers in San Francisco, Detroit, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, and elsewhere. He is a board member of Internet Archive and frequently writes and speaks on the future and politics of archives and archival access. With Megan Shaw Prelinger, he co-founded an experimental research library in San Francisco in 2004, which serves over a thousand artists, researchers, and activists each year.
Sam Green is a documentary filmmaker. He’s made many movies including, most recently, A Thousand Thoughts, a live cinematic collaboration with the Kronos Quartet. Previous “live documentaries” include The Measure of All Things and The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, featuring the indie rock band Yo La Tengo. Sam’s documentary The Weather Underground was nominated for an Academy Award and included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial.
Joshua Glick is the Isabelle Peregrin Professor of English, Film, and Media Studies at Hendrix College and a Fellow at the Open Documentary Lab at MIT. He is the author of Los Angeles Documentary and the Production of Public History (University of California Press, 2018). Dr. Glick is currently writing a new book that examines the contemporary interest in documentary on both the left and right of the political spectrum. In collaboration with Patricia Aufderheide, he is co-editing The Oxford Handbook of Documentary. Dr. Glick also works actively in the public humanities. He served as the Film and Digital Media Curator for the traveling exhibition, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008. As a Fellow at MIT, he is designing an online curriculum that explores the past and present of disinformation as well as the civic uses of emerging media.
Luke Robinson is a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sussex.