ORIGINS & INVENTIONS
Nov 20-22, Durham, NC
The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University will host a 25th Anniversary celebration and national forum on November 20–22, 2015, in Durham, North Carolina. Documentary 2015: Origins and Inventions will bring together photographers, filmmakers, podcasters, writers, media professionals, educators, students/alumni, and supporters to view compelling documentary work and to examine central issues in the documentary field, recognizing deep traditions while training an eye on the future.
In addition to panel discussions, presented work, screenings, and special events throughout the weekend, a special CDS 25th Anniversary celebration on Saturday, November 21, will honor photographer John Cohen, poet Natasha Trethewey, filmmaker Samuel D. Pollard, and NPR producers and hosts The Kitchen Sisters. This new tribute goes to artists whose extraordinary contributions create a lasting mark in the documentary field, make an imprint in the world, and deepen our understanding of the human condition.
Friday, Nov 20
THE RICKHOUSE | 609 FOSTER ST | DURHAM, NC 27701
1:30 P.M. | DOCUMENTARY THEN AND NOW
WESLEY HOGAN, CDS DIRECTOR, AND IRIS TILLMAN HILL, CDS FOUNDING DIRECTOR
Fifty years after the publication of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the seminal documentary work by James Agee and Walker Evans, a newly minted Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University presented a one-day conference on the evolving practice of various forms of documentary work: “To Render a Life or to Change the World?” As the Center for Documentary Studies marks its 25th Anniversary, we take stock of where we started, where we are now, and where we may be heading. In a sea of digital technology, of multiple voices and visions, how do we recognize today what is documentary practice, what is documentary art?
2 P.M. | CREATED AND FOUND
The work of John Malpede and the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), the first performance group in the nation made up principally of homeless people, embodies many of the essential themes and tensions in documentary: collaborative/individual artistic vision, activism/impact, investigation/meditation, credentialed sources/lived expertise, among them. Since 1985, LAPD has made artistic work not only to embrace and foster the powers of people living in the Skid Row area but also to fundamentally change the narrative about people living in poverty. All of John Malpede’s work springs from this vision.
For this presentation, Malpede asks, let’s not assume that empathy changes people or things, or that crafting the good story is the heart of the matter. Malpede will share a number of examples from performances and other interventions that run the gamut from crafted narrative to found object—all of which are examples of changing the narrative. And he will show examples of how the created/found spectrum is a valuable tool for situating work.
3 P.M. | WITNESS AND THE DOCUMENTARY IMAGINATION
TOM RANKIN AND HONG-AN TRUONG
In making documentary work, artists draw from traditions and predecessors in the field to inform their creative vision, yet these influences are not always explicit. What are the ties that bind us together in the documentary enterprise? And when we diverge, as individual artists forging new pathways, what unexpected sparks send us in new directions? In this meditation on origins and inventions that illuminate the documentary landscape, we will view selected works and consider the fundamental nature of the documentary impulse and the abiding vision to create.
Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman’s Last Day of Freedom (winner of the Jury Award for Best Short and CDS Filmmaker Award at the 2015 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival) is a richly animated personal narrative that tells the story of Bill Babbitt’s decision to stand by his brother in the face of war, crime, and capital punishment. The film is part of Living Condition, an animated interactive web documentary about families living in extreme circumstances as they grapple with the psychological and emotional trauma of a loved one accused of a capital crime.
6:00 P.M. | RECEPTION (FULLSTEAM BREWERY)*
*21 and over only
For the past decade, photographer Peter van Agtmael has documented the consequences of America’s wars, at home and abroad, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is drawn through his lens to life’s happenings outside the main frame, to contradictory and dissonant occurrences that require a longer, deeper look. Rather than reports from the battlefield or polemics on the tactics of warfare, his photographs evoke elements of our fundamental humanity; they resonate with unseen meaning, as they entwine a fragmentary narrative into something akin to the richness and mystery of lived experience. For the war photographer, who witnesses life in distant, dangerous lands, there is a certain imperative to illuminate grave truths before they disappear forever.
Saturday, Nov 21
THE RICKHOUSE | 609 FOSTER ST | DURHAM, NC 27701
Documentary is rooted in the experiences of real people, the recording of actual occurrences—but does this mean it is not the province of imaginary constructions? Interpretation, invention, memory, and other personal and literary touches infuse fine writing with force. Rootedness in the particulars of place and human connection drives powerful narrative. What “documents” do we take as signposts in our experiences and how do we put them into words to convey some sense of truths in our lives, no matter the form: critical essays, memoir, long-form nonfiction, fiction, poetry?
Photographs capture moments in time, portray juxtapositions in space. Yet what they convey is neither static nor simply literal. Photographs can reveal things we fail to see in our daily lives, even as they comment on what we have lived through; and they can evoke things we cannot see—especially so when a photographer makes images in one place over an extended time, when that place carries connotations of home.
LUNCH ON YOUR OWN
Documentary sources, human or not, make their own demands. What happens when the necessary evidence, the backdrop to a narrative, is missing or is nebulous or is compromised? All filmmakers face challenges with trusting and conveying the essence and integrity (or lack thereof) of their sources. Can any source be trusted completely? What license does the documentary filmmaker have to interpret or cast a source in different lights, for the purposes of a constructed narrative with certain intent? What innovative approaches do these challenges inspire?
The storytelling power of audio—with envisioned characters and imagined scenes—presents rich opportunities for innovative approaches to the digital terrain. From the podcasting boom to new forms of interactive documentary, the capacity of sound, voice, writing, and layered narratives to spark the imagination extends outside the box (radio, tablet, smartphone) to reach people where they are and to inspire engagement, and possibly changes of heart.
8 P.M. 25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Honoring John Cohen, The Kitchen Sisters, Samuel D. Pollard, and Natasha Trethewey
Music by Justin Robinson & Special Guests
To celebrate and to champion the documentary arts, the Center for Documentary Studies is instituting a new tribute to artists whose extraordinary contributions create a lasting mark in the documentary field, make an imprint in the world, and deepen our understanding of the human condition. To inaugurate these annual awards for/with its 25th Anniversary, CDS selected honorees in four categories within the broad sweep of documentary arts that the organization historically has supported: photography, audio, film, and writing.
Seated dinner & dancing | Cocktail attire
Sponsorships & VIP Packages available