New Year and New Ways of looking at Nonfiction

Welcome to 2019. So glad we made it.

This year brings an opportunity to rethink the way we are imagining the realm and possibility of nonfiction media making. In consideration of new looking or re-looking or re-forming how we look and how we see and understand the world we inhabit, I’d like to draw your attention to some recent publications to help guide your view.

Consider this manifesto by Alexandra Juhasz & Alisa Lebow, Beyond Story: An Online Community Based Manifesto recently published in the World Records Journal presented by Union Docs in New York.

The challenge to the discipline here is the overwhelming question, why has STORY become the presiding factor in the realization of a nonfiction work? What other ways of looking can we embolden to encompass that which story fails to do? What are we missing when we privilege story over other forms of truth-telling?

As the title implies, the community aspect should not go without mention. The simple revelation that nonfiction film as an industry needs to broaden its view in terms of HOW it is reflecting life as lived but also WHO participates in that reflection. We have certainly come through the era where one person (be it director, producer, what have you) claims and is awarded the full credit and responsibility of the work. We, most of us, understand that it takes a village and often a specific community to accomplish any meaningful work in this area.

So, I invite you to also consider these newly published guidelines for crediting in a work of nonfiction. Created by a team of producers and makers and hosted by the Documentary Producers Alliance, this guide unabashedly lays out the terms of who does what and how that should be reflected in the credits.

As we navigate this intersection between revealing the potential of our field as it soars to new possibilities of expanded distribution and viewership and combating the insipid colonialism and patriarchy on which this business was built, there is much to consider. Perhaps the answers are not completely obvious but the need for action over passivity is abundantly clear.

Soumyaa Behrens

#documentarydisrupted-Pluralities Nonfiction Film Conference Nov 6/7

The Documentary Film Institute launched a new venture last year intended to shake up the worlds of nonfiction, documentary, expanded media and everything in between. Pluralities’ is a project that knows no boundary. It explores and considers all avenues and intersections of media and the world, academic and otherwise, even those that are imagined, magical, unreal, phenomenal, fantastical or absolutely and completely tactile or mundane.

Our new blog and website hosts a peer and industry reviewed journal with a variety of materials from academic papers to reviews to video essays and other contemplations. The first essays will be rolled out the week of November 5th as we open up the 2nd Annual Symposium at Seven Hills Conference Center on the campus of San Francisco State University.

This year’s gathering: Spaces, Places and Belonging features keynote speakers Jules Rosskam and Sharon Daniel, a special partnership with SF State’s Africana Studies program brings a live video dialogue with Arthur Jafa and Greg Tate, and special screenings of Jules’s incredible new film, Paternal Rites, and, Survivors, which gives an up-close look at the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone with a Q/A with filmmakers and reception. There will also be a Virtual Reality Arcade available first-come, first serve both days featuring the works, Hutong Days by Weimin Zhang, Peer by Emir Fils-Aime and Notes on Blindness by Peter Middleton and James Spinney as well as several other panels addressing the themes of the conference. It is FREE to attend, but registration is recommended. There are panels, presentations, receptions and screenings from 9-6pm both days.

Tickets and registration:

Submissions for our new journal are currently open!


Many thanks to Africana Studies, the College of Liberal and Creative Arts, the School of Cinema at SF State, 13th Gen, We Own TV, and the current round of DocFilm Fellows-Ben Reissberg, Miguel Moreno, Quinn Robideaux and Joakim Ingerlund who have all helped bring this event to you.

Join us in this conversation!