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Apr 17, 2020 at 10:00 am – Apr 20, 2020 at 3:30 pm

Magical Realism: Subverting The Ordinary

Led by Elan Bogarín

This workshop is SOLD OUT.

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

Please note:  Due to COVID-19, UnionDocs workshops are being held remotely, over video conference.

We’ve restructured the experience to optimize this format, offering a functional rhythm and pace, while continuing the strong combination of theory, practice, expert feedback and community that participants love.  

Filmmaker Michael Roemer held true to the belief that  “film at it’s best uses the language of ordinary experience —– but uses it subtly and artfully.” Traditionally documentaries explore that which is “true” or “pure reality.” Formally using a set number of languages that stem from a journalist practice – interview, verite, archival and recreations. As expectations and traditions are challenged, how can media makers expand the language of non-fiction to express a more subjective, picture of the world? What tools are at our disposal to visually articulate these visceral or metaphorical realities?

Seeking to collapse the day-to-day with the wondrous opening concepts beneath the seat of reason – technique of ‘normalized magic,’ as defined by Kate Bernheimer, magical realism delicately marries naturalistic technique with fantasy. The term was made famous by the likes of Latin American authors Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino. Today, a robust genre has emerged of work that incorporates otherworldly elements with otherwise realistic worlds with the goal of making the ordinary extraordinary. 

Magical Realism: Transforming The Ordinary into the Extraordinary led by Elan Bogarin (306 Hollywood) will examine the cross section of  filmic and literary practices of this evolving genre. We will collectively discuss how to adapt influences from fiction film, literary non-fiction and art history to find new modes of storytelling. This four day workshop will feature a stellar host of guest instructors, including Elizabeth Rao (Madeline’s Madeline), Sophia Nahli Allison (A Love Song For Latasha), Alexa Lim Haas (Random Acts Of Flyness), Meriem Bennani (Party On The Caps), more. 


Open to everyone, though the workshop setting is best suited for filmmakers, film producers, journalists, curators and media artists.

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).

$295 early bird registration by April 13, 2020 at 5PM.

$350 regular registration.

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until April 13th. After April 13th, 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.

To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via card, check, or cash . After the early bird registration deadline of April 13th, 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, April 17th – 10:00am - 3:30pm

Intro & Welcome by Elan Bogarín

PM: Presentation and discussion with Elan Bogarín

Saturday, April 18th – 10:00am - 3:30pm

AM: Presentation and discussion with Guest Instructor

PM: Presentation and discussion with Guest Instructor

Sunday, April 19th – 10:00am - 3:30pm

AM: Presentation and discussion with Guest Instructor

PM: Presentation and discussion with Guest Instructor

Monday, April 20th – 10:00am - 3:30pm

AM: Presentation and discussion with Guest Instructor

PM: Participants Work-In-Progress

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


Warm up, inspiring references, case study, eye training.


Presentation by guest speaker + individual work-in-progress critique




Lunch (on your own)


Presentation by guest speaker + individual work-in-progress critique


Participant work-in-progress critique


Wrap up!


Elan Bogarín’s feature 306 Hollywood, premiered on opening night of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as the first documentary ever included in the festival’s NEXT section. It played over 65 festivals, won multiple awards, was released theatrically through the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship, and appeared on PBS’s POV and Amazon Prime. Elan was chosen for Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film, DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40, and was awarded Emerging International Filmmaker at Hot Docs. Elan co-founded The Wassaic Project and was nominated for the Gotham + Spirit Awards for producing Big Fan which premiered at Sundance. Elan is the co-director of El Tigre Productions where she creates innovative non-fiction films and produces award-winning digital content for the world’s leading museums, platforms, and brands such as Google, MoMA, The Getty, The Whitney, and The New York Times. She has received support from organizations including Sundance, Artemis Rising Foundation, Ford Foundation / Just Films, NYSCA, Latino Public Broadcasting, and IFP.

Sophia Nahli Allison is an experimental documentary filmmaker, photographer and dreamer. She disrupts conventional documentary methods by reimagining the archives and excavating hidden truths. Her work is a meditation of the spirit, exploring the public and private spaces of black women through alternate histories, erased and lost archives, and the metaphysical. Sophia conjures ancestral memories to explore the intersection of fiction and non-fiction storytelling. She is a 2020 United States Artists Fellow in Film and has held residencies at The MacDowell Colony, The Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France., The Center for Photography at Woodstock, and POV Spark’s African Interactive Art Residency. She is a recipient of a 2014 Chicago 3Arts Award and has received grants from the Sundance Institute New Frontier Lab Programs, Glassbreaker Films, and Getty Images. In 2017 she was named the Student Video Photographer of the Year by the White House News Photographers Association. She has a Master’s Degree in visual communication from UNC. Past projects have been featured on The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Root, with Los Angeles Filmforum at MOCA, and more. Her short documentary A Love Song For Latasha premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and received the Grand Jury Documentary Prize at AFI Fest, along with Best Documentary Short awards at the New Orleans Film Festival, BlackStar Film Festival, and more including an IDA Documentary Awards Nomination.

Meriem Bennani is a Moroccan artist currently based in New York. Juxtaposing and mixing language of reality TV, documentaries, phone footage, animation, and high production aesthetics, she explores the potential of storytelling while amplifying reality through strategies of magical realism & humor. Her shape-shifting practice of films, immersive installations question our contemporary society and its fractured identities under digital technology’s ubiquity.

Alexa Lim Haas is an artist and filmmaker from New York City. She was selected by Filmmaker Magazine as one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2017. Her animated shorts, Glove (2016) co-directed with Bernardo Britto, and her first solo short Agua Viva (2018) both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and were awarded with Grand Jury Prizes at SXSW. In addition to screening at film festivals worldwide she has exhibited work at MoMA, BAM, The Brooklyn Museum, The Norton Museum of Art, and in collaboration with Planned Parenthood and the HBO show Random Acts of Flyness. She received her BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Elizabeth Rao is a producer, editor, and emerging writer-director, whose feature films have premiered at Sundance, Berlinale, SXSW, MoMA, Tribeca, and more. Rao recently edited Materna, directed by David Gutnik (U.S. Narrative Competition, Tribeca Film Festival 2020); edited award-winning feature documentary, Maineland (SXSW Special Jury Award for achievement in observation cinema); and produced and co-edited acclaimed Madeline’s Madeline (Independent Spirit and IFP Gotham Nominee). Both Madeline’s Madeline and Maineland won their directors seats in the Academy. Rao has taught workshops in experimental filmmaking at True/False Film Festival, has given artist lectures at Yale University, The Edit Center, and is a member of the collective Brown Girls Doc Mafia. Her work combines documentary and fiction filmmaking techniques, in order to subvert conventional narrative structures and elevate new voices.

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Apr 17, 2020 at 10:00 am
Apr 20, 2020 at 3:30 pm
$285.00 – $295.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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