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Spring Bright Lights Offers Alumni Films, Tons of Documentaries

Arrival plays January 26.

Arrival, an alumnus-produced, critically acclaimed sci-fi movie, opens the Spring 2017 Bright Lights Film Series lineup, which this semester showcases several Emerson filmmakers and includes a number of gripping documentaries.

Producer Aaron Ryder ’94 will join the Thursday, January 26, screening via Skype to talk about making Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Arrival tells the story of a linguist (Adams) who leads an elite team to investigate a number of spacecraft that have landed across the planet. Her search for answers could threaten her life, and possibly humanity.

The Bright Lights series, sponsored by the Department of Visual and Media Arts, brings engaging and challenging film to Emerson and the wider Boston community, and fosters dialogue between artists, academics, and fans. All screenings, held in the Bright Family Screening Room, are free and open to the public, and all end with a relevant discussion of the film and its themes led by faculty or guests. Many feature appearances by the filmmakers themselves.

Watch the Spring 2017 Bright Lights Trailer.

Loving plays February 9.

Alumna producer Sarah Green ’81 will join Bright Lights via Skype on February 9 to talk about her historical drama, Loving, about the couple (Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga) whose lawsuit invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage in 1967. 

On March 16, producer/actor David Alan Basche ’90 will join in a discussion following Equity, about an investment banker up against a financial scandal. The film, starring Anna Gunn, is being shown as part of the MIT Women Take the Reel series.

Director Alex Lehmann ’04 will be on hand March 28 to talk about his film, Blue Jay, about former high school sweethearts who reconnect after more than 20 years. And he’ll be back two nights later to talk about his documentary, Asperger’s Are Us, about a comedy troupe made up of four friends on the autism spectrum.

Asperger's Are Us plays March 30.

Asperger’s Are Us is just one of several documentaries being screened this nonfiction-heavy semester.

The second film of the series, Newtown, on January 31, explores the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in America and will be followed by a discussion with director Kim A. Snyder.

On February 2, Ava DuVernay’s (Selma) 13th examines the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, specifically the qualifying clause that allows slavery as punishment for crime and how that clause has led to mass incarceration.

Writer/director Ido Haar and star Princess Shaw will visit on April 4 to present Presenting Princess Shaw, about how Shaw went from aspiring musician to YouTube sensation.

Presenting Princess Shaw plays April 4.

And on April 6, Emerson undergraduate and graduate students will have a chance to show off their own documentary work at the annual It’s All True showcase.

Other documentaries coming to Bright Lights are:

Tower (with director Craig Staggs on February 7), which combines archival footage and rotoscopic animation to tell the story of the August 1, 1966, sniper shooting at the University of Texas.

Other People’s Footage (with directors Diane Carson and Robert Johnson on February 21) about copyright and fair use in filmmaking.

Untouchable (with producer Rebecca Richman Cohen on March 2), about a Florida lobbyist who gets the toughest sex offender laws in the nation passed after his daughter is abused.

Deprogrammed (with director Mia Donovan on March 23; part of MIT Women Take the Reel), about Ted “Black Lightning” Patrick’s 1970s anti-cult crusade.

Kate Plays Christine (on April 13), a unique method of nonfiction storytelling that follows actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she prepares to play Christine Chubbuck, a news reporter who committed suicide on air in 1974. Kate Plays Christine comes two nights after Antonio Campos’ Christine, a dramatic retelling of Chubbuck’s final days with Rebecca Hall in the title role.

Other films in the series are:

Some Freaks (with producer Sarah Edrie and composer Walter Sickert on February 14) – A romance develops between a boy with one eye and an overweight girl.

Under the Shadow (February 16) – A woman becomes convinced a malevolent spirit is trying to possess her daughter after her building is hit by a missile during the Iran–Iraq War.

The Neon Demon (February 28) – When aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to LA, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women.

Trumbo (March 14) – A biopic of Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), a screenwriter who used words and wit to get his movies made after being blacklisted for his political beliefs in post-war Hollywood.

Remedy (with director Cheyenne Picardo on March 21, part of MIT Women Take the Reel) – A young woman from the underground kink clubs of New York gets a job at a commercial BDSM dungeon and learns about the pressures and risks of the sexual service industry.

The Handmaiden (April 18) – A crime drama from Park Chan-wook about a Japanese lady on a secluded estate and the Korean woman hired to serve her who is secretly plotting to defraud her.

Moonlight (April 20) – Chronicles the life of a young black man as he struggles to find his place in the world growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.