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Student documentarians present It’s All True

by Tim Strain / Film Columnist • April 22, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said that “truth is stranger than fiction.” As the school year draws to a close, Emerson filmmakers are gearing up to showcase their work this Monday in It’s All True, the first student festival exclusively featuring documentaries.

Associate visual and media arts professor Marc Fields curated the festival with part-time faculty Laurel Greenberg and Julie Gustafson. Greenberg thought of the festival a year ago when her students demonstrated a strong interest in documentary filmmaking.

This idea coincided with an increasing number of documentary production classes, many of which have yielded content for the festival. According to Fields, nearly all of the entries to It’s All True — more than three dozen were whittled down to a final roster of 12 — were produced for Emerson classes.

“The criteria for evaluating a project for a showcase are somewhat different than for a class,” Fields said in an email interview with the Beacon. “We were really impressed by the overall quality and diversity of the submissions.”

The entries range from two to 56 minutes long and the curators said they worked diligently to create a diverse mix of comedic, dramatic, personal, and experimental works in the lineup. The artists chosen vary from graduate students to upperclassmen, including seniors already preparing to leave college.

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The students involved said they are happy to be a part of the showcase and to get the opportunity to display their work in a new way.

John Pouliot, a media studies major, and Andrew Vella, a studio television production major, collaborated with classmate Matt Figler. a senior BFA  cinematography major, in their fall 2009 Advanced Studio Production Workshop class to make Steinert Hall, their submission to the festival. The documentary is a four-minute piece exploring the deserted music hall located two doors down from Piano Row on Boylston Street. Last spring, the seniors won a Best Documentary EVVY for the piece.

Pouliot hopes the documentary will raise awareness about the forsaken theater.

“There’s so much more [Emerson students] can do,” Pouliot said.  “We can show what happened, what changed, show how an abandoned music hall in Boston is indicative of something bigger. No one knows about it. We’re built upon history and no one seems to care where we come from.”

Junior narrative film directing major Alex Pulido also submitted to It’s All True, offering his two-minute film entitled American Disillusionment. He made the short for his Video Field Production class last year in response to the seeing the use of Walt Whitman’s poem “America” in a Levi’s commercial directed by Harmony Korine, a prominent independent filmmaker. Pulido believes Whitman wouldn’t be happy if his work was being used to sell jeans, so the director went out and tried to find the America in his backyard.

“[The film] isn’t so much a story as an observation,” said Pulido in a phone interview with the Beacon. “It’s very cinema verite. I wanted to capture instances of this, this, and this so [my cinematographer and I] walked around Boston until we got the shots we wanted.”

[caption id="attachment_733" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Andrew Vella/Beacon Correspondent "][/caption]

One film was posthumously submitted on behalf of Grace Kaskie, an Emerson undergraduate who died in August 2009. The documentary she directed, entitled The Walk, is a three-minute still-life observation of two friends taking an afternoon walk on a winter day in New England.

The films in It’s All True will not be in competition with one another, unlike most film festivals. The curators said they are happy with the films just being showcased and will see how the program unfolds before potential tinkering for next year.

“I’m not a big fan of competitive art-making,” said Fields. “We need more support for artists, rather than anointing local celebrities or creating another pseudo-awards event.”

It’s All True begins at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 25 in the Bright Family Screening Room in Paramount Center.