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Feb 11, 2022 at 10:00 am – Feb 13, 2022 at 4:00 pm

Memory Palaces: Experiments in Essay Filmmaking

With Annie Berman, Alan Berliner, Dónal Foreman, Akosua Adoma Owusu, Lynne Sachs & Suneil Sanzgiri

This workshop is SOLD OUT.

Please sign up for the waitlist below to receive updates regarding any openings or similar future opportunities.

In the words of renowned film avant-gardist Hans Richter, essay films “’make problems, thoughts, and even ideas perceptible … they ‘render visible what is not visible.’” From Chris Marker and Agnes Varda to Travis Wilkerson and Trinh T. Minh-ha, filmmakers and artists have been using the genre of essay filmmaking to explore new modes of blending fact, fiction, and experience to capture essential truths. A constantly evolving and flexible form, essay films are used to document cultural and historical moments, evoke a feeling, unravel an auto-biography, and respond to critical social turning points with a challenging mix of traditional documentary conventions, personal nuance and experimental artistry.

Join UnionDocs and filmmaker Annie Berman to explore the practice of this shape-shifting genre as it stands today. Open to filmmakers, students, artists, scholars, and anyone else interested in the topic, this three-day intensive enables participants to explore new methodologies in crafting their own work in conversation with other makers.

Participants in this workshop will have the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of practitioners. Annie will begin the workshop, using as a jumping-off point her film, The Faithful, which will screen as a public, kick-off event the night prior. She will then be joined in conversation by Akosua Adoma Owusu, who will discuss her work in the essay film as it pertains to the construction of historical memory and cultural identity. On the second day, this particular discourse will be expanded by Dónal Foreman (The Image You Missed) and Suneil Sanzgiri (Letter from Your Far-Off Country), both of whom will discuss the sociohistorical, trans-Atlantic, and diasporic aspects of their respective practices. The weekend will then close out with essay film icons Lynn Sachs and Alan Berliner, who will ground participants in their longstanding, essayistic practices and provide food for thought regarding the evolution of the form up until now.

NOTE: This workshop will require in-person participation from all participants. Each participant must present proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test administered within 72 hours of the workshop’s start. Any and all questions, please reach out to [email protected].



Open to everyone, though the workshop setting is best suited for documentary filmmakers, aspiring podcasters, journalists, and media artists. This workshop will be in person and conducted in accordance with CDC protocols.

Give us an idea of who you are and why you are coming. When you register you will be asked for a short statement of interest that should briefly describe your experience and a film project (it would be great if you have a project in progress that you would present to the group during the work-in-progress critique sessions), plus a bio. There’s a spot for a link to a work sample (and CV, which would also be nice, but is not required).

$350 early bird registration by February 4th, 2022 at 11:59PM.

$400 regular registration.

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until February 4th. After February 4th, the fee is non-refundable.

In order to keep costs down, this workshop is a BYOL, i.e. bring your own laptop. Students must be fully proficient using and operating their computers.

NOTE: To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via card, check, or cash . After the early bird registration deadline of February 4th, course fees are not refundable or transferable and any withdrawals or deadlines will result in the full cost of the class being forfeit. There will be no exceptions. To withdraw from a course please email info-at-uniondocs.org.

In the event that a workshop does not receive sufficient enrollment, it may be canceled. Students will be notified at least 48 hours prior to the start of a cancelled workshop and will be refunded within 5 business days. If we reschedule a workshop to another date, students are also entitled to a full refund. UnionDocs reserves the right to change instructors without prior notification, and to change class location and meeting times by up to an hour with 48 hours prior notice.

Please note: Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Friday, Feb 11, – 10:00am - 4:00pm

10:00a – Annie Berman Session
12:00p – LUNCH
1:00p – Akosua Adoma Owusu
1:00p – Opening Exercise
1:30p – Presentation of Work(s)
2:15p – Discussion/feedback
3:00p – Wrap Up Discussion with Annie
4:00p – End

Saturday, Feb 12, – 10:00am - 4:00pm

10:00a – Suneil Sanzgiri Session
10:00a – Opening Exercise
10:30a – Presentation of Work(s)
11:15a – Discussion/feedback
12:00p – LUNCH
1:00p – Dónal Foreman Session
1:00p – Opening Exercise
1:30p – Presentation of Work(s)
2:15p – Discussion/feedback
3:00p  Wrap Up Discussion with Annie
4:00p – End

Sunday, Feb 13 – 10:00am - 4:00pm

10:00a – Lynne Sachs Session
10:00a  Opening Exercise
10:30a  Presentation of Work(s)
11:15a – Discussion/feedback
12:00p – LUNCH
1:00p – Alan Berliner Session
1:00p – Opening Exercise
1:30p – Presentation of Work(s)
2:15p – Discussion/feedback
3:00p – Wrap Up Discussion with Annie
4:00p – End

Each day follows this general structure, with some minor variations and substitutions:


First Workshop Session




Second Workshop Session


Wrap Up


Annie Berman is a media artist living and working in New York City. Named one of Independent Magazine’s 10 Filmmakers to Watch, her films, videos, performances, and installations have shown internationally in cinemas, festivals, galleries, universities, and conferences, including the MoMA Documentary Fortnight, Camden International Film Festival, Rooftop Films, Galerie Patrick Ebensperger Berlin, Kassel Hauptbahnhof, Spring / Break Art Show, Flux Factory, Babycastles Gallery, and the Rome Independent Film Festival where she was awarded the Best Experimental Film Prize. Her work has received support from the Puffin Foundation, Wave Farm, the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Arts, Grant for the Web, the Center for Independent Documentary, Signal Culture, LABA NYC, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and UnionDocs. She holds an MFA in Integrated Media Art from Hunter College, teaches at City College, and is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective.

Alan Berliner is an American independent filmmaker. The New York Times has described Berliner’s work as “powerful, compelling and bittersweet… full of juicy conflict and contradiction, innovative in their cinematic technique, unpredictable in their structures… Alan Berliner illustrates the power of fine art to transform life.” Berliner’s experimental documentary films, First Cousin Once Removed (2013), Wide Awake, The Sweetest Sound (2001), Nobody’s Business (1996), Intimate Stranger (1991), and The Family Album (1986), have been broadcast all over the world, and received awards, prizes, and retrospectives at many major international film festivals. The San Francisco International Film Festival called Berliner, “America’s foremost cinematic essayist.” The Florida Film Festival called him “the modern master of personal documentary filmmaking.” Over the years, Berliner’s films have become part of the core curriculum for documentary filmmaking and film history classes at universities worldwide, and are in the permanent collections of many film societies, festivals, libraries, colleges and museums. All of his films are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Dónal Foreman is an Irish filmmaker living in New York City. He has been making films since he was 11 years old. Since then, he has written, directed and edited over fifty short films, and in 2013 he completed his first feature film Out of Here. His second feature, The Image You Missed, premiered at the 2018 Rotterdam Film Festival and went on to successful festival and theatrical runs around the world. He’s an alumnus of the Irish National Film School and the Berlinale Talent Campus, and, since 2011, a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective. As a film critic, he has written for many publications including Cahiers du Cinema and Filmmaker Magazine, and as a teaching artist, he was worked with public school students across New York City for the Tribeca Film Institute among other organisations.

Akosua Adoma Owusu is a Ghanaian-American filmmaker, producer, and cinematographer. She currently lectures at Harvard University and at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Aiming to create a third cinematic space or consciousness, Owusu explores the colliding identities of black immigrants in America through multiple forms, ranging from cinematic essays to experimental narratives to reconstructed Black popular media. In her works, feminism and African identities interact in African, white American and black American cultural spaces. Since 2005, Owusu’s films have screened internationally in festivals and museums, including the New York Film Festival, Berlinale Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Locarno International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, MoMA, and the BFI London Film Festival. Named by IndieWire as one of six preeminent “avant-garde female filmmakers who redefined cinema,” she was a featured artist of the 56th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar. Her recent projects include Welcome to the Jungle (2019), a multi-channel video installation made in collaboration with the CCA Wattis Institute. Her work can be found on the Criterion Channel and in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Fowler Museum at UCLA, among others.

Since the 1980s, Lynne Sachs has created cinematic works that defy genre through the use of hybrid forms and cross-disciplinary collaboration, incorporating elements of the essay film, collage, performance, documentary and poetry. Her highly self-reflexive films explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. With each project, Lynne investigates the implicit connection between the body, the camera, and the materiality of film itself. From essay films to hybrid docs to diaristic shorts, Sachs has produced 40 films as well as numerous projects for web, installation, and performance. She has tackled topics near and far, often addressing directly the challenge of translation — from one language to another or from spoken work to image. These tensions were investigated most explicitly between 1994 and 2006, when Lynne produced five essay films that took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany—sites affected by international war–where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions.

Suneil Sanzgiri is an artist, researcher, and filmmaker. His work spans experimental video and film, animations, essays, and installations, and contends with questions of identity, heritage, culture and diaspora in relation to structural violence. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a Masters of Science in Art, Culture and Technology in 2017. His film “At Home But Not At Home” made its World Premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, in January 2020, with a nomination for the Found Footage Award. His follow-up film “Letter From Your Far-Off Country” made its world premiere at the New York Film Festival in the fall of 2020, and was entered into the Ammodo Tiger Shorts Competition at IFFR in 2021. Sanzgiri’s work has been screened extensively at festivals and galleries nationally and internationally, including Sheffield Doc/Fest, IndieLisboa, Punto de Vista, Viennale, LA Film Forum, e-Flux, 25 FPS festival, and has won awards at BlackStar Film Fest, Open City Documentary Festival, Images Festival, as well as Special Jury mentions at the European Media Arts Festival and Iowa City Docs. Sanzgiri was a 2016 resident of the SOMA program in Mexico City, a Flaherty NYC co-programmer in 2020 – 2021, a resident of the Pioneer Works Studio Residency in Spring 2021, and will be a MacDowell Fellow in winter 2021. Sanzgiri is currently working on his first feature-length work, focusing on the bonds of solidarity that developed out of resistance to the Portuguese empire between India and Africa.

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Feb 11, 2022 at 10:00 am
Feb 13, 2022 at 4:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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