SOCDOC - MFA Social Documentary Film

SocDoc Blog

Happenings in the documentary film world and within the School of Visual Arts MFA in Social Documentary Film Community

Amitabh Joshi wins Princess Grace Award

Following in the footsteps of last years’ winner, Raul Paz Pastrana (’12), SocDoc student Amitabh Joshi (’13) was awarded a fellowship from the Princess Grace Foundation as part of their new Just Films Documentary program. National in scope, the Princess Grace Foundation-USA is dedicated to identifying and assisting emerging talent in theater, dance, and film by awarding grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships, and fellowships. Tabha will use the award to fund production and post-production costs on his thesis film “Mustang Rising”, currently shooting in Nepal. When we we reached him to discuss the award, he was thrilled and honored to have been chosen in this highly selective program. We are sure he will put the funding to good use. Congratulations Tabha!

If you’d like to see some production stills from Tabha’s film, please be sure to check out our facebook page, where we’ve been sharing them all summer.

Georgia Gruzen’s “Fanuzzi’s Gold” comes to Rooftop Films tonight

Following great screenings at Silverdocs and Full Frame, where the film won an Honorable Mention Audience Award, Georgia Gruzen’s thesis short “Fanuzzi’s Gold” comes to Rooftop Films Friday June 29th in the New York NonFiction program. Georgia tells us that both Ed Fanuzzi and his son, Ed Jr., will be there, giving the audience a chance to meet two of the inspiring members of the Fanuzzi family.

For tickets, visit Rooftop Films.
Mark Kendall (’11) interviewed by Huffington Post about his thesis film La Camioneta

Alum Mark Kendall (’11) was interviewed in the Huffington Post about his feature doc “La Camioneta” which just finished up a sold out run at the LA Film Festival. It’s been a remarkable journey, not just for the titular camioneta, but for Mark himself, who shot and edited the film while a student in the MFA Social Documentary department. The film premiered at SXSW earlier this year, and has been praised by The Hollywood Reporter as “an intimate and vivid report on a surprising connection between North and Central America.”

For more, check out the trailer:



“Reportero Project” features work by first year SocDoc students

Faculty member Bernardo Ruiz (Producing I) checked in this week from Los Angeles (where his film “Reportero” was screening as part of the LA Film Festival) to praise the short doc produced by some first year SocDoc students for the Reportero Project.

He writes:

We are also very proud to unveil a powerful new documentary short on the Reportero Project Blog about memory and photography in the besieged border city of Juárez. Inthis piece, Guillermo Cervantes an activist and researcher discusses his project“Ciudad Juárez, a photographic testimony of our pain.” The project, which consists of photographs taken by Cervantes’ colleagues working in the Mexican press, serves as a historical testament of the surge of narco-violence and murder that has deeply affected his city. Working with Quiet Pictures, emerging filmmakers Erik SpinkAndres Arias and Lauren Kraus (all from the School of Visual Arts, MFA Social Documentary ’13) collaborated to make a short film that is a testament to stubborn individuals-like the journalists in REPORTERO-who insist on recording and remembering.

“Reportero” follows a veteran reporter and his colleagues at Zeta, a Tijuana-based independent newsweekly, as they stubbornly ply their trade in one of the deadliest places in the world for members of the media. For more information, visit

SocDoc Alumn is Finalist for Student Academy Awards

Academy Announces U.S. Finalists for 2012 Student Academy Awards®

Beverly Hills, CA (May 2, 2012) – Thirty-five students from 20 U.S. colleges and universities have been selected as finalists in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 39th Annual Student Academy Awards competition. Academy members will view the finalists’ films at special screenings and vote to select the winners. Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal awards, along with accompanying cash grants of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively, may be presented in each of four categories: Alternative, Animation, Documentary and Narrative. Winners will be brought to Los Angeles, along with the international student winners in the Foreign Student Film category, for a week of industry activities and social events that will culminate in the awards ceremony on Saturday, June 9, at 6 p.m. at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

The finalists are (listed alphabetically by film title):
“Falconer,” Micah Robert Barber, University of Texas at Austin
“In Between Shadows,” Tianran Duan, University of Southern California
“Last Remarks,” Umar Riaz, New York University
“Peace at Home,” Avital Epstein, Florida State University
“The Reality Clock,” Amanda Tasse, University of Southern California
“SiSiSiSiSiSiSiSiSiSiSi,” Juan Camilo González, University of Southern California
“Terra Cotta Warrior,” Bin Li, Rochester Institute of Technology
“Us,” Alex Lora, City College of New York

“Chocolate Milk,” Eliza Kinkz, University of California, Los Angeles
“Cowboy, Clone, Dust,” Matthew Christensen, New York University
“Eyrie,” David Wolter, California Institute of the Arts
“The Jockstrap Raiders,” Mark Nelson, University of California, Los Angeles
“La Lune et le Coq,” Raymond McCarthy Bergeron, Rochester Institute of Technology
“Lizard and the Ladder,” Aaron Bristow, Utah Valley University*
“My Little Friend,” Eric Prah, Ringling College of Art and Design
“Reviving Redwood,” Matt Sullivan, Ringling College of Art and Design
“Shinobi Blues,” Yue Liu, School of Visual Arts

“Dignity Harbor: A Home Away from Homeless,” Michael Gualdoni, Lindenwood University*
“Dying Green,” Ellen Tripler, American University
“Hiro: A Story of Japanese Internment,” Keiko Wright, New York University
“Lost Country,” Heather Burky, Art Institute of Jacksonville*
“Love Hacking,” Jenni Nelson, Stanford University
“Pot Country,” Mario Furloni, University of California, Berkeley
“Reporting on The Times: The New York Times and the Holocaust,” Emily Harrold, New York University
“Smoke Songs,” Briar March, Stanford University
“Why Am I Still Alive,” Hanzhang Shen, School of Visual Arts

“Benny,” Huay-Bing Law, University of Texas at Austin
“Contra el Mar,” Richard Parkin, University of California, Los Angeles
“Hatch,” Christoph Kuschnig, Columbia University
“Mr. Bellpond,” A. Todd Smith, Brigham Young University
“Nani,” Justin Tipping, American Film Institute
“Narcocorrido,” Ryan Prows, American Film Institute
“The Recorder Exam,” Bora Kim, Columbia University
“Requited,” Madeline Puzzo, Point Park University*
“Under,” Mark Raso, Columbia University

*Indicates first-time finalist entry for the school/university

To reach this stage, U.S. students competed in one of three regional competitions. Each region is permitted to send to the Academy up to three finalists in each of the four categories. Academy members have selected students from Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom as finalists in the Foreign Film category.

The Academy established the Student Academy Awards in 1972 to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level. Past Student Academy Award® winners have gone on to receive 46 Oscar® nominations and have won or shared eight awards. At the 84th Academy Awards earlier this year, 2011 Student Academy Award winners Hallvar Witzø and Max Zähle were nominated in the Live

Action Short Film category for “Tuba Atlantic” and “Raju,” respectively. James Spione, a Student Academy Award winner in 1987, earned a nomination in the Documentary Short Subject category for “Incident in New Baghdad.”

The 39th Annual Student Academy Awards ceremony on June 9 is free and open to the public, but advance tickets are required. Tickets are available now, online, in person at the Academy box office, or by mail. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

“Fanuzzi’s Gold” wins an audience award at Full Frame

2012 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Award Winners

  • The Anne Dellinger Grand Jury Award was presented to “Special Flight (Vol Spécial),” directed by
    Fernand Melgar. The film focuses on a Swiss detention center where tensions build as rejected asylum
    seekers await their forced removal from the country they now call home. This award is sponsored by
    Chuck Pell, CSO Physcient, Inc. and Alpha Cine Labs, Seattle.
  • A Special Jury Award was also presented to “The Law in These Parts (Shilton Ha’Chok),” directed
    by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, a meticulously constructed exploration of the complex military laws
    imposed by Israel on citizens in the occupied territories. The Jury commented, “The Law in These Parts” we honor with a Special Jury Award. We admire its intelligence and unique Brechtian treatment of a very controversial subject.”
  • The Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short was given to “The Time We Have (Den tid vi har),” directed by Mira Jargil, a beautiful, intimate, and deeply tender look at saying goodbye to the love of  your life after 67 years of marriage. The Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short is provided by Drs. Andrew and Barbra Rothschild. The Jury, Steven Ascher, Jessica Edwards, and Edwin Martinez, stated: “The Jury Award goes to an elegantly realized portrait of a marriage that tenderly explores a husband’s last days with his wife.
  • The Jury awarded an honorable mention to “Sivan,” directed by Zohar Elefant, a minimalist portrait of an Israeli soccer fan in thrall to a team and an obsession. The Jury said: “This Special Jury Award is presented to “Sivan,” a film that employs an innovative directorial approach to a fascinating character to capture a myriad of themes and emotions from one camera angle.”
  • “Trash Dance,” directed by Andrew Garrison, received the Full Frame Audience Award. The film documents an unusual partnership between a dancer and the Austin Department of Solid Waste Services to stage a public performance starring man, music, and machine.” Sponsored by Merge Records, the Audience Award is determined by counting audience ballots filled out during the festival.
  • An Honorable Mention was presented to the short with the highest score, “Fanuzzi’s Gold,” directed by Georgia Gruzen. The film focuses on Ed Fanuzzi, a Staten Island inventor, treasure hunter, and eternal optimist, who sees gold where others see trash.
  • The Center For Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award was given to “Special Flight (Vol Spécial),” directed by Fernand Melgar. Provided by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, this award honors a documentary artist whose work is a potential catalyst for education and change. Representatives from the Center for Documentary Studies juried the prize: Randy Benson, Katie Hyde, Marc Maximov, Lynn McKnight, Dan Partridge, Tom Rankin, Elena Rue, Teka Selman, and April Walton.
  • “The Waiting Room,” directed by Peter Nicks, was awarded the Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award. This gripping vérité film is a symphony of patients, caregivers, and loved ones, bureaucracy and hard choices, in an Oakland ER’s waiting room. Provided by the Charles E. Guggenheim family, this prize honors a first-time documentary feature director. Natalie Bullock Brown, Heather Courtney, and Mark Elijah Rosenberg participated on the Jury.
  • “Mr. Cao Goes to Washington,” directed by S. Leo Chiang, received the Full Frame Inspiration Award. The film captures rookie congressman Joseph Cao of Louisiana as he angers fellow Republicans by befriending President Obama; will bipartisanship reward or ruin his chances for reelection? Sponsored by the Hartley Film Foundation, this award is presented to the film that best exemplifies the value and relevance of world religions and spirituality. Jim Klein, Sarah Masters, and Fiona Otway participated on the Jury.
  • The Full Frame President’s Award was presented to the “Grandmothers (Abuelas),” directed by Afarin Eghbal. This animated documentary about Argentina’s Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo features stories of women who search for their missing grandchildren. Sponsored by Duke University and aimed at recognizing up-and-coming filmmakers, this prize is awarded to the best student film. Representatives on behalf of the President’s Office juried the prize.
  • “ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare,” directed by Susan Froemke and Matthew Heineman, received The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights. American healthcare has evolved into a profit-driven disease-care system—this film closely examines the medical industry and bold new measures that may help ease what ails us. Provided by the Julian Price Family Foundation, this award is presented to a film that addresses a significant human rights issue in the United States. Representatives from the Kathleen Bryan Edwards family juried the prize: Anne Arwood, Laura Edwards, Clay Farland, Margaret Griffin, and Pricey Harrison.
  • The Nicholas School Environmental Award was presented to “Chasing Ice” directed by Jeff Orlowski. In this film, scientific fact and aesthetic beauty merge in monumental and dramatic time-lapse photos illustrating global warming’s chilling ravages. The Nicholas School Environmental Award honors the film that best depicts the conflict between our drive to improve living standards through development and modernization, and the imperative to preserve both the natural environment that sustains us and the heritages that define us. Representatives from the Nicholas School of the Environment juried the Prize: Cindy Horn, Stephen Nemeth, Rebecca Patton, and Tom Rankin.

About Full Frame

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is an annual international event dedicated to the theatrical exhibition of nonfiction cinema. Each spring Full Frame welcomes filmmakers and film lovers from around the world to historic downtown Durham, N.C., for a four-day, morning to midnight array of over 100 films as well as discussions, panels, and southern hospitality. Set within a four-block radius, the intimate festival landscape fosters community and conversation between filmmakers, film professionals and the general public.

The Festival is a program of the Center for Documentary Studies (a non-profit, 501 c 3), and receives support from
corporate sponsors, private foundations and individual donors whose generosity provides the foundation that makes the
event possible. To learn more on the mission of Full Frame or for information on membership or sponsorship
opportunities, scheduled films or festival passes visit
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Jenni Morello Premieres Her Thesis Film at TIFF Kids

McB, Jenni Morello’s thesis film is a fly-on-the-wall portrait that takes viewers behind the scenes as the student actors draw links between their characters’ emotions and their own, creating a testament to the critical role of arts education in early development. Jenni is in Toronto this evening at the premiere of the film at the TIFF Kids Festival, the largest children’s film festival in the world. Congrats Jenni!


SocDoc Represents at Full Frame Film Festival This Weekend

Georgia Gruzen (SocDoc ’11) premiered her thesis film “Fanuzzi’s Gold” at the Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, NC today.  Georgia’s film is a unique portrait of Ed Fanuzzi, a Staten Island inventor and treasure hunter. He sees gold where others see trash, combing the beach with a metal detector and searching through bins at the junkyard. Some of Fanuzzi’s finds end up in his cluttered backyard while others become construction projects for family members in need. Meanwhile, in approximately 2,000 videotapes, Fanuzzi records his life, explorations, and adventures. His home movies are interspersed throughout this portrait of an eternal optimist who has faced tragedy and heartache yet continues to dream of gold. Georgia’s film is very special and we are extremely proud that she is premiering her film at Full Frame – one of the most respected non-fiction festivals in the world.

Additionally the following faculty members are also screening films at Full Frame:

“Marina Abramović The Artist Is Present” by Maro Chermayeff (SocDoc Department Chair), Donna Shepherd (Editing Faculty), Jeff Dupre (Guest Lecturer), Matthew Akers (Guest Lecturer) is screening on Saturday 4/14.

Bernardo Ruiz (SocDoc Producing Faculty) is screening his latest film “Reportero” this afternoon.

Tom Hurwitz (SocDoc Cinematography Professor) shot two films screening at Full Frame – “Love Free or Die” and The Queen of Versailles


SocDoc Student Dawn Schwartz Wins 1st Place at College Television Awards

A huge congratulations to Dawn for winning the top spot in the documentary film category at the 2012 Academy of Arts and Sciences College Television Awards. The College Television Awards is a national competition recognizing excellence in college student-produced video, digital and film work. Each year, we receive entries from hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide. Winners are honored at a black-tie gala in Los Angeles, receive cash awards, industry recognition and the opportunity to network with top television executives.

Entries are judged online by members of the Television Academy who are professionals working in each respective discipline. Viewing is restricted to competition judges and staff only. Finalists’ work in each category proceed to Blue Ribbon Panels for selection of winners in mid-February. As with the Primetime Emmy® Awards, entries are awarded based on excellence in overall production.

See Dawn accept her award in Los Angeles this past weekend!


Kirsten Johnson inspires SocDoc students during process & style lecture series
Kirsten Johnson

Kirsten Johnson, Cinematographer

Cinematographer and Director Kirsten Johnson came to the SocDoc department last night for our weekly Process & Style Lecture Series. Her honesty, insight, wit and vast experiences inspired everyone in the room. She began the lecture by applauding the students for their decision to work in the documentary film industry (the best jobs in the world) and then proceeded to share tales, lessons and learnings from her 20+ year career as a cinematographer. She gave advice on many topics – from documentary ethics, to which jobs to take and why, to some great practical tips for shooting in the field. What a pleasure it is to bring experienced technicians/filmmakers together with the next generation of documentarians for some good old fashion mentoring!

Here is the schedule for remaining lectures this semester – please email [email protected] if you would like to attend.

3/22/12 : Doug Block, Filmmaker
3/29/12 : Elena Paul, Esq., Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
4/5/12 : Susan Lacy, American Masters
4/19/12 : Sam Pollard, Editor, Director, Producer

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