MFA in Documentary Media Showcase: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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MFA in Documentary Media Showcase

MFA in Documentary Media Showcase

Event Details

Date & Time:

Wed June 8, 2016 - Fri June 10, 2016


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


Discover the next generation of documentary filmmakers who tackle topics as diverse as heartbreak, family dynamics, and poetry. From Chinese entrepreneurs to African American farmers, these short films take us on a cinematic journey to discover far-flung places, meet unique characters, and hear fresh and provocative stories. Northwestern University’s new MFA in Documentary Media program is proud to present these thesis films by its first cohort of graduates: Carlos Cova, Rafie Drencheva, Shuhan Fan, Jasmine Huff, Miasarah Lai, Deborah Libby, João Queiroga, Sara Reed, Justin Reifert, Brittany Shyne, Jesseca Simmons, and Qihui Wu.

Receptions will begin at 6:30 for each night of programs.


Program 1: Seekers

Wednesday, June 8, 2016 7:00 PM FREE

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (2016) Dir: Jasmine Huff

This film provides, filmmaker, Jasmine Huff with a chance to learn about the legacy of her father, James Huff, an important African-American artist living with the effects of a massive stroke. In the filmmaker’s quest to piece together her family's story she employs a collage of filmed conversations, archival footage, and animation.

Wise Medicine (2016) Dir: Deborah Libby

A short documentary exploring the modernization of indigenous healing practices, Wise Medicine follows a small group of strangers seeking healing knowledge from Shipibo curanderos at a plant medicine school in Peru. At the Amazonian jungle camp, the initiates are pushed to their limit as they experience firsthand the challenging plant medicine ceremonies they are being trained to facilitate. Meanwhile, in Chicago, a woman named Amara has returned from Peru to open a modern shamanic healing studio where she struggles to find balance during a major life transition. Wise Medicine is a raw and evocative portrait of individuals who choose to look outside of their culture for more meaningful sources of healing when modern medicine fails to meet their needs.

1/80 of Zhang Tianyi  (2016, 18 min) Dir: Shuhan Fan 

When Zhang Tianyi, a 25-year-old Mao Zedong fan, graduates with a law degree from Peking University, his job prospects are dim. He is one of 8 million young Chinese who compete for new jobs in Beijing every year. Rethinking his career choice, Zhang Tianyi opens a rice noodle restaurant inspired by street food from his native Hunan province. Within a year, he is a millionaire who owns multiple restaurants and has attracted more than half a million social media followers. Director Shuhan Fan uniquely captures the energy and density of modern China through the story of this young entrepreneur.

Emerald Ice (2016) Dir: Jesseca Simmons

Using only excerpts from her poetry, the docu-fantasy Emerald Ice takes the viewer on a journey of the imagination to explore Diane Wakoski's fearless meditation on intimacy and mortality. Starting from Diane's kitchen table, director Jesseca Simmons' cinematic curation drops the audience in the middle of a California orange grove that leads to momentary glimpses of the expansive worlds existing inside this beloved American poet, in hopes to give more credence to our own multitudes.


Program 2: Accented Cinema

Thursday, June 9, 2016 7:00 PM FREE

Followed by a conversation with the fimmakers and Professor Hamid Naficy, Radio/Television/Film Department, Northwestern University.

Abuelita Outside (2016) Dir: Miasarah Lai

From the window of her apartment, Maria sings fragmented melodies to the East River. Filmmaker Miasarah returns to the New York City's Lower East Side to chronicle her grandmother's everyday experiences with Alzheimers and her caregivers. Forgotten histories are parceled out from the few objects of Maria’s past, exploring the memories embodied by her daily routine, and playing the rhythms with which communicates. Maria’s Lower East Side home served as the family’s backbone for 47 years, but rumors of the city selling these housing projects, now coveted real estate, threaten to get Abuelita Outside

Fragments (2016, 12 min.) Dir: Carlos Cova

Emir Kamenica and his family were among the hundreds of thousands of refugees that fled Bosnia amid armed turmoil more than 20 years ago. N​ow living in Chicago, Emir revisits his memories, recounting the outbreak of the war and its profound effects on his family’s life.

Seeds (2016) Dir: Brittany Shyne

An ethnographic portrait of a centennial African-American farm that blends the visual richness of the south to illustrate what it means for generational farmers to have a place called home. Using lyrical black and white imagery the film takes a pensive look at how times are changing, in where hands that have once toiled the soil, are now consciously being replaced by industrial apparatuses. 

Chosen People (2016) Dir: Qihui Wu

A subtle meditation on relations between history, memory, and identity lensed through a leisurely tour of the inner landscape of a black church and intimate interaction with the churchgoers.


Program 3: Intimate Strangers

Friday, June 10, 2016 7:00 PM FREE

Big Rapids (2016) Dir: Justin Reifert

A personal film addressing the abuse of prescription opioids (such as Vicodin and Oxycontin) through director Reifert's brother's struggle with addiction. When Josh, 34, is forced to move home with their parents, differing attitudes towards addiction and recovery ignite old tensions and threaten to divide the family.

Friends for Sale (2016) Dir: Rafie Drencheva

In today’s technology-driven world, you can buy everything online, even your friends. Friends for Sale follows filmmaker Rafie Drencheva on a personal journey through the growing practice of friendship rental, questioning who uses these services and why and what this says about human interaction in the digital age? 

The Dismantled Heart (2016) Dir: Sara Reed

Our hearts love and our hearts break and then. . . Sara Reed’s essayistic The Dismantled Heart is an experimental quest to battle a kaleidoscope of wounds brought about by the one event she spent her entire childhood running away from, divorce. An offbeat and intimate portrayal of the aftermath of heartbreak.

Our Skin (2016) Dir:  João Queiroga

A late night call takes an unexpected turn as two unlikely strangers gain the courage to be intimate with one another. Between gender, sexuality and post-traumatic stress disorder, their fleeting encounter unveils deeper truths about alienation and the human need to connect.

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at