Through the Looking Glass (Pt 1): NU MFA Doc Media Thesis Showcase: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Through the Looking Glass (Pt 1): NU MFA Doc Media Thesis Showcase

A white woman points a camera at her reflection with orange text that reads "Through the Looking Glass"
7 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Thu June 9, 2022
7 PM


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


Open to the public


Through the Looking Glass: Reflecting the World Around Us

NU MFA Doc Media Thesis Showcase

June 9-10, 2022 @ 7 pm FREE, Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University


We're proud to present the thesis films of the Class of 2022! Please join us for two FREE nights of screenings. Doors open at 6:30 pm, screenings start at 7 pm.

Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass showed the world that life isn’t always what it seems to be, just as documentary films do in reflecting our realities back to us. Although on the surface a looking-glass could simply be a mirror, it is also a portal in which we are plunged into the unexpected, ultimately finding ourselves at the end and seeing our reflections in their fullest embodiments. Amid a world of staggering unpredictability, “Through the Looking-Glass” showcases short films by MFA Documentary Media students who step into their own looking-glasses of introspection to find themselves and others in their rawest and most intimate forms and truths.

Through the Looking Glass (Pt 1): NU MFA Doc Media Thesis Showcase

Filmmakers: Yanyi Xie, Nely Montina, Mbayi Aben, Alicia Soller

How can we see people closest to us, by looking inward, through ourselves?

During the pandemic, we have been forced into isolation and solitude. Often in silence, we tend to think, reflect, and ask ourselves questions that we tend to ignore – especially about family. As a unit, we realized this period of remoteness allowed us to finally confront hidden truths, secrets, and challenges in our lives, confronting them head on. 13 Hours shows the emotional proximity and physical separation between Yanyi Xie, her parents, space, and time, through the pandemic. The audience will then follow Nely Montina into a space of vulnerability in Pale de Fanmi as he goes through a space of healing with his Haitian parents and siblings. In Home is Where the Heart is, Mbayi Aben uses her cousin’s story to question the state of safety and home within her homelands of Cameroon and the United States. Finally, the night ends with Alicia Soller’s love letter to family matriarchs in Of the Heart, uncovering the threads that connect mother and daughter.

Post-screening Q&A with the filmmakers

About the films:

13 Hours (Yanyi Xie, 17m)

A personal short documentary about a daughter, who lives in the U.S. as a foreign student, as she reaches for home thousands of miles away through making phone calls and sharing videos with her parents.

Pale de Fanmi (Nely Montina, 20m)

A young artist examines and engages in conversation with his Black Haitian immigrant family about their past by “getting into the emotional, the deep stuff.”

Home is Where the Heart is (Mbayi Aben, 20m)

In this personal documentary, a Cameroonian American filmmaker follows the journey of her older cousin, as he escapes the brutalities of his homeland and tries to find safety and a new “home” in the United States.

Of the Heart (Alicia Soller, 19m)

Distressed by news about her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis, a young filmmaker challenges herself to get to know her mother in a deeper dimension, unearthing her mom’s core beyond her prescribed roles in meditative ways, while also revealing the threads that connect mother and daughter.


Each night of screenings features a selection of new short documentaries, with the opportunity to engage with the makers and celebrate their accomplishments. Discover a new generation who are making exciting films that tackle a wide range of topics. Previous thesis films have gone on to play such prestigious festivals as Locarno, Slamdance, Camden, New Directors/New Films, AFI Docs, IDFA, et al.

Co-presented by Northwestern’s School of Communication, The Department of Radio-TV-Film, Jane Steiner Hoffman and Michael Hoffman, and The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.


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