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

SocDoc Department Chair Produces “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present”
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

MFA SocDoc department chair Maro Chermayeff’s latest Show of Force production, “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present,” won the audience award for best documentary at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival this week.


Produced by: Maro Chermayeff & Jeff Dupre
Dircected by Matt Akers, Co-Director Jeff Dupre
Edited by E. Donna Shepherd (MFA SocDoc editing faculty), Co-Editor Jim Hession

The film had its US premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January and is also screening at the True/False Film Festival, the Big Sky Documentary Festival and others to be announced!

Filmmaker John Valadez

The MFA SocDoc program welcomed John Valadez to our guest lecture series yesterday evening to discuss his career, his films, and his views on the medium of documentary film. Each week we are very fortunate to be able to bring our students diverse guests from all over the industry to share their films and stories with the next generation of documentary storytellers. We are consistently impressed with the generosity of our guest lecturers – they freely share their experiences and lessons learned all for the benefit of our students.

John Valadez at the Process and Style Lecture Series

The Process and Style Guest Lecture Series is only open to MFA SocDoc students or by invitation only. Please email mbhattacharya(at) with any questions. Below is a list of our guests for this semester’s season please visit our web site for the bios of past guests.

1/12/12 Cavah Zahidi – screening of latest film

1/19/12 Nina Davenport – “First Comes Love” – work in progress screening

1/26/12 Eric Drath – Live Star Entertainment LLC. screening “Renee”

2/2/12Matthew AkersMaro ChermayeffJeff Dupre and Donna Shepherd – “Marina Abramović The Artist is Present” Screening

2/9/12 John J. Valadez – “Matters of Race”, “Beyond Brown” and others

2/16/12 Cathy Carapella – Rights and Clearances Panel w/
 Dana Perry – filmmaker, Jim McDonald – archivist, Cathy Carapella-Global Image Works, Neil Rosini-fair use attorney

2/23/12 – Ellen Kuras – Director and Cinematographer

3/15/12 – Doug Block – Filmmaker

3/22/12 – Kirsten Johnson – Cinematographer

3/29/12 – Elena Paul, Esq. – Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

4/5/12- Susan Lacy – American Masters

4/12/12- Carter Little – Music Supervisor and Composer

4/19/12- Sam Pollard – Editor, Director, Producer


Alexa Karolinski’s Thesis Film Featured in the New York Times

In Berlin, 395 Films, 18 Premieres, and 1 Award to Streep

A still from the film “Oma and Bella.”Alexa KarolinskiA still from the film “Oma and Bella.”



Berlin’s annual film festival, the Berlinale, showcases a total of 395 films from around the world in its 62nd installment, which runs from Thursday through Feb. 19. Among these movies, 18 are world premieres in the running for the festival’s highest honors, the Golden and Silver Bear trophies.

The festival has already chosen one award recipient: its Lifetime Achievement award, or “Honorary Golden Bear,” goes to  Meryl Streep. She will receive the award on Feb. 14 at a screening of “The Iron Lady,” and the festival’s Homage section will feature six of her other films, including “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Sophie’s Choice.”

This year’s Berlinale exhibits a high ratio of politically charged films, especially within its more avant-garde “art cinema” sub-programs.  ThePanorama section will feature four films inspired by last year’s Arab Spring, while Forum includes three documentaries that each confront the effects of Japan’s nuclear crisis at Fukushima. Angelina Jolie’s wartime love story, “In the Land of Blood of Honey,” will also be screened, and she will attend the annual “Cinema for Peace” charity gala, where she’ll be honored for her humanitarian efforts.

Another directorial debut is the documentary “Oma and Bella” by a Berlin native, Alexa Karolinski. Originally conceived as Ms. Karolinski’s master’s thesis while she was a graduate student at the School of Visual Arts in New York, “Oma and Bella” is a touching portrait of two Holocaust survivors living in Berlin, bound together by their shared histories and a passion for cooking. To fund her first feature-length film, Ms. Karolinski sought donations, ultimately raising $44,000, more than twice her goal. She and Oma, her grandmother, have since baked over 1,000 cookies for her Kickstarter donors, their “reward” for backing her project. “Oma and Bella” will have its world premiere at the Berlinale in the Culinary Cinema section, which will screen a series of food and eco-related films in partnership with the International Slow Food Movement at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, followed by a gourmet dinner in the “Gropius Mirror” pop-up restaurant.

Mark Kendall’s Thesis Film To Premiere at SXSW in Austin, TX

We are very pleased to announce that Mark Kendall’s thesis film La Camioneta will premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX this March. Congratulations Mark all of your hard work on the film is paying off! For more information about the film visit:

The SXSW® Film Conference and Festival features a dynamic convergence of talent, smart audiences and industry leaders in a uniquely creative environment. A hotbed of discovery and interactivity, the event offers invaluable networking opportunities and immersion into the art and business of independent film.

The Film Conference buzzes with world-class speakers, creatives and innovators in a productive social atmosphere. Simultaneously the internationally acclaimed Film Festival program celebrates raw innovation and emerging talent, featuring provocative documentaries, comedies, genre standouts and more.

For more information about the festival please visit:

Second Year Student Working At Sundance Film Fest
Adam Banicki

Adam Banicki Shooting for at the Sundance FF. And yes, that is Laura Prepon, of "That 70's Show" fame.

SocDoc at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival

As the 2012 film festival season gets underway we will have many exciting announcements, and we will begin with news from Berlin. HUGE congratulations to MFA Soc Doc grad Alexa Karolinski for being selected to premiere her thesis film “Oma and Bella” at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival! The Berlin FF is one of the most competitive and popular festivals in the world, placing Alexa and her beautiful film in some unbelievable company: for more information visit the festival web site.

MFA Soc Doc alumnus Bao Nguyen will be joining Alexa at the Berlinale as a participant in the 2012 Berlinale Talent Campus. The Talent Campus is a six-day creative summit for up-and-coming filmmakers featuring lectures, discussions, workshops, and excursions for directors, screenwriters, actors, cinematographers, producers, editors, sound designers, composers, production designers and film critics. Click here for more information about the Talent Campus.

Alexa and Bao will also have some faculty support in Berlin, as “Marina Abramović The Artist is Present” produced by SocDoc department chair Maro Chermayeff and guest lecturer Jeff Dupre, edited by SocDoc faculty member Donna Shepherd and directed by guest lecturer and SVA alumnus Matthew Akers makes it’s European premiere on February 11th. The film premiered at the Sundance FF last week. More information about this exciting film can be found on Facebook:

2011 Thesis Film Reels (More Films)

MFA SocDoc Thesis Film samples 2 from MFA SocDoc on Vimeo.

Look for them at a film festival near you. We will post all film festival announcements on our Blog.

SocDoc Represents at 2012 Sundance Film Festival

director Matthew Akers and Marina Abramović

The Sundance Film Festival is arguably the premiere film festival in the United States. With over 4,000 feature length films submitted this year, competition for one of the 16 spots in the documentary competition was fierce.

An invitation to premiere your film at the festival is an honor bestowed on very few filmmakers and this year SocDoc is extremely proud that a number of faculty are making the trip out to Sundance this January. In fact, five out of the 16 films in the documentary competition were created by SocDoc faculty and/or guest lecturers.

“Marina Abramović The Artist is Present” produced by SocDoc department chair Maro Chermayeff and guest lecturer Jeff Dupre, edited by SocDoc faculty member Donna Shepherd and directed by guest lecturer and SVA alumnus Matthew Akers will be in the documentary competition.

Cinematography faculty member Tom Hurwitz, ASC was Director of Photography for “The Queen of Versailles” and “Love Free Or Die.”

Guest lecturers Sam Pollard (“Slavery By Another Name”) and Susan Froemke (“ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare”) also have their films premiering in the documentary competition.

See the full list of films in the documentary competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

A scene from “The Queen of Versailles,” a documentary about a couple facing foreclosure while building America’s biggest house.

2011 Thesis Films Sample

Thesis film excerpts, Group 1 from MFA SocDoc on Vimeo.

Jenni Morello, Alumnus – Talks About SocDoc

Jenni Morello, class of 2011 from MFA SocDoc on Vimeo.

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