Screenings are Sept. 22-23 at the SVA Theatre, and are free & open to the public.
The films this year tackle no smaller concepts than realizing your potential, and the quest to be seen, heard and - perhaps most importantly - understood. They take us through the subways and the streets of NYC's five boroughs, to Connecticut, Korea and Thailand. We’ll meet chefs, rappers, black belts, wanderers, filmmakers, YouTube stars, a giant pig, and several dogs. We’ll talk film history, queer identity, immigration, masculinity, the power of religion, the power of music, the strength of community – and of course, food. And, they’re funny!
"Our students have worked tirelessly for the past year making outstanding films that are breaking the mold. Each film is original and each filmmaker speaks with a new and distinct voice of their own. We are continually impressed with our global and diverse emerging artists and welcome them into our industry." says SocDoc Department Chair Maro Chermayeff of the screenings.
For the second year, the Thesis Showcase Spotlight introduces some of the top films in the program to a group of Industry Advisors who can potentially help further these projects – and the filmmakers’ careers. These advisors will review the films & give notes on completion and distribution options, as well as on the filmmakers’ career strategy. Advisors include festival programmers Karen Arikian (Berlin International Film Festival; Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Festival), Opal Bennett (DOC NYC), Dominic Davis (Rooftop Films), Tom Hall (Montclair Film Festival); as well as documentary tastemakers Reva Goldberg (Cinereach), Erika Howard (POV) Paola Mottura (IFP); Denae Peters (Film Sprout). Selected films are noted in the full line up below.
See the full line up of our incredible films from emerging filmmakers below. Q&As follow each screening. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like more information on any of the films.
Friday September 22
6:00pm ★ Showcase Spotlight
Dykes, Camera, Action!
Director: Caroline Berler | Length: 45 minutes
(SVA Alumni Scholarship Award)
Lesbians didn't always get to see themselves on screen. When they did appear in films, lesbian characters were often lonely, suicidal or depicted as vampires. But between Stonewall, the feminist movement, and the experimental cinema of the 1970s, a once invisible population became seen and heard, transforming the social imagination about queerness. Filmmakers Barbara Hammer, Su Friedrich, Rose Troche, Yoruba Richen, Desiree Akhavan, critic B. Ruby Rich and others share moving and often hilarious stories from their lives and discuss how they've expressed queer identity through their films.
7:10pm ★ Showcase Spotlight
Director: Brian Inocencio | Length: 26 minutes
Willie Chen is a first-generation Asian American living in Brooklyn, New York. As the black sheep of his family, he defied the cultural expectations of becoming a doctor or a lawyer, and instead pursued his passion for rock and roll. To make ends meet, he has become a dog walker. Walking 10-15 miles every day, year round and in all weather, Willie proves that dog walking is no simple task. Dog walker by day and artist by night, Willie Chen creates his own version of the American dream.
8:00pm ★ Showcase Spotlight
Alice Was Four
Director: Rebecca Benson | Length: 40 minutes
Through Alice, witness one of life’s most ordinary, yet extraordinary, rites of passage: a child's last few months as an only child, and first few months as a big sister. This is an intimate portrait of early childhood – all milk, juice, messes, markers, songs, monkey bars, laughs and tears. “Alice Was Four” allows us to experience something we were not aware of when it happened to us: the moment we became aware of ourselves.
I Am Gary
Director: Edgardo Marmol | Length: 49 minutes
Gary was bullied as a kid in the Bronx, but he trained with the Jewish Defense League to always fight back, by whatever means necessary. Now a Karate and Judo black belt, he’s strong-willed and passionate - which often gets him into unnecessary problems at work and at home. He is an ex-cop and a former rabbi, and now teaches martial arts therapy to empower disabled kids and adults. Gary’s current dilemma is his divorce from his wife Raquel; they are battling in court for custody of their three children, including a daughter with cerebral palsy. Will he ever admit he could have done things differently?
Director: Gia (Yanru) Wang | Length: 35 minutes
Fleeing death threats from local drug runners in his native El Salvador, Victor and his younger brother crossed the Mexican boarder into Texas only to fall prey to human trafficking. They eventually arrived in New York City to live with two of their other brothers. Here, Victor is able to learn English and graduate high school, in hopes of one day becoming a doctor. But, his fate as an asylum seeker is pending on the decisions of Immigration Court. The film shares Victor’s personal journey, detailing his immigrant experience in NYC and the family relationships that sustain him here and at home.
Saturday, September 23
Eating the Enemy
Director: Melanie McLean Brooks | Length: 30 minutes
(SocDoc Thesis Production Grant)
For years, Chef Bun Lai’s unorthodox take on traditional Japanese cuisine had restaurant-goers and critics puzzled. But after decades of dedication, his radical vision of the future of food – eating invasive species – is gaining international traction. As Bun meets with top chefs, collaborates with activists, and forages with friends, he struggles through the day-to-day challenges of operating a family business, balancing sustainability and indulgence, and weighing financial success with moral decision-making. “Eating the Enemy” looks at the value of sustainability and explores a delicious solution to a costly environmental issue.
Director: Shuonan Liu | Length: 22 minutes
Cristy Matteo lives with her pet pig, Wilbur, on Staten Island in New York City. She bought this little 15-pound Juliana “mini-pig” for emotional companionship for her and her father. But, the years passed, the little piglet became the 180 pound pig he is today. Now, the City thinks it’s not safe for Cristy to keep a pig as a pet. Will she have to send her animal friend to live in the country?
Kids Can Spit
Director: Chelsi Bullard | Length: 33 minutes
(Chicken and Egg Accelerator Lab fellowship; SocDoc Thesis Production Grant; SVA Alumni Scholarship Award)
“Kids Can Spit” follows Mannix, a high school freshman, as he prepares for Science Genius Battles, an annual rap battle exclusively made up of science-themed rhymes from NYC public school kids. For Mannix, winning the competition would allow him to craft his musical skills, which he hopes one day will transform his world, and lift him, his mom and baby sister out of the projects. The film shows us that despite the stereotype, Black and Latino youth do engage in science fields, with a personalized twist.
Director: Mingi Kim | Length: 35 minutes
(SocDoc Thesis Production Grant)
Hyun travels from New York to South Korea to face his father for the first time in years. Hyun's father, Simon, has been diagnosed with cancer prompting Hyun to try to reconcile with him. Simon abused Hyun often physical and verbal violence. But, this might be their last chance to salvage the relationship. Meanwhile, the filmmaker, Mingi Kim, follows this journey and unexpectedly begins to sympathize with Simon. Mingi just had a son of his own, and is beginning to understand the burdens of being a father and a Korean immigrant in New York City.
5:00pm ★ Showcase Spotlight
Director: James Stuart | Length: 50 minutes
(SocDoc Thesis Production Grant; SVA Alumni Scholarship Award)
Hidden in New York City’s subway system there is a thriving subculture, the world of rail fans. Young men from the inner city head into the trains not to travel from A to B, but to revel in the sights and sounds of this vast system of cars, tracks, and antique and modern technologies that keep a city moving. See why the city’s subway obsessives ride through this sprawling, crowded and broken-down world –and escape life above ground.
6:15pm ★ Showcase Spotlight
Not in My Mother's House
Director: Sandra Itäinen | Length: 50 minutes
“Not In My Mother’s House” is an intimate vérité documentary that follows young queer Muslim activist, Eman Abdelhadi, in the year she comes out to everyone but her mother. With a devoutly Muslim mom and young progressive queer Muslim friends, Eman finds herself caught between two truths and their respective communities. In this Trump-era America where travel bans and hate crimes towards Muslims are at risk of being normalized, Eman struggles to acknowledge and incorportate all sides of her identity, and consequently becomes entangled in a self-created web that she is seeking to escape.
7:15pm ★ Showcase Spotlight
Come and See
Director: Kai Nottapon Boonprakob | Length: 80 minutes
(SVA Alumni Scholarship Award)
In Thailand, the elderly abbot of Dhammakaya, the largest and most controversial Buddhist Temple, is charged with money laundering and receiving stolen property from one of his followers. The film looks through the perspective of Bumpen, a 50-year-old woman and a devout follower who has moved into the Temple with thousands of other disciples to protect the accused abbot from law enforcement - by any means necessary.
Reception in Lobby 9:00-11:00pm
Beer has been lovingly provided by Brooklyn Brewery
Headline image: Come and See