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Spring 2018 Bright Lights Promotes Women, Faculty Filmmakers

Not only are half of the Spring 2018 Bright Lights Film Series selections directed by women, but six of the films are directed or produced by an Emerson student, alumna, or faculty member.

The Bright Lights series, sponsored by the Department of Visual and Media Arts, aims to foster dialogue between artists, academics, and audiences. All screenings, held in the Bright Family Screening Room, are free and open to the public, and all feature discussion of the film led by faculty or guests—often the filmmakers themselves.

Beginning in Fall 2017, the series, curated by VMA Director of Programming Anna Feder, committed to dedicate 50 percent of its screenings to films made by women.

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Among the faculty films being shown this semester are The Blind Boys of Alabama: How Sweet the Sound, directed by VMA Assistant Professor Leslie McCleave; Barracuda, directed by VMA Assistant Professor Julia Halpern; and “Matters of Life and Death,” short films directed by VMA Associate Professor Rob Todd.

Barracuda, directed by Assistant Professor Julia Halpern, will be screened March 27.

The Blind Boys of Alabama, showing February 13, is a documentary about a gospel group that met in a segregated vocational school in the 1930s. McCleave will talk about her film after the screening, which will be presented with audio description for the vision impaired.

On March 13, Todd will be on hand to discuss his selection of 16mm films, “a program of cinematic poems that follow the changing tides of the living world.” And Halpern will discuss her feature, about a young British woman who comes to Texas to find her half-sister after their country musician father dies, bringing chaos with her, on March 27.

VMA Assistant Professor Mike S. Ryan was the producer of Free in Deed, a drama set in the world of storefront churches and faith healing, and will discuss his film after the February 27 screening.

Alumna Elaine McMillion, MFA ’13, directed Heroin(e), a documentary about three women working to break the cycle of addiction in Huntington, West Virginia, the epicenter of America’s opioid epidemic. VMA Distinguished Director-in-Residence Regge Life will lead a discussion following the screening on February 15, at 5:00 pm (note unusual start time)

Heroin(e), a documentary about one town's battle against the opioid epidemic, was directed by Elaine McMillion, MFA '13. It will be screened February 15.

One month later, on March 15, it’s back to West Virginia, where MFA candidate Keely Kernan will discuss In the Hills and Hollows, her documentary about how the disruption of the coal industry by the rise of natural gas is affecting communities.

JD Marlow ’08 was the editor on One of Us, a documentary about people who have left the Hasidic Jewish community. He’ll talk about the film in the second screening of the semester on February 1.

The series opens on Tuesday, January 30, with Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer, about a couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guest arrive at their home. VMA Associate Professor Harlan Bosmajian and Campus Chaplain Harrison Blum will lead a conversation.

Films in the series:

Mother!, January 30: See above

One of Us, February 1: See above

Good Time, February 6: A man descends into New York’s underworld in a desperate attempt to get his younger brother out of jail following a botched bank robbery. VMA affiliated faculty member Robert Ribera will lead discussion.

Loving Vincent, February 8: A painted animated feature that explores the life and death of Vincent van Gogh. VMA Professor Cher Knight will lead discussion.

The Blind Boys of Alabama, February 13: See above. Presented with audio description for the vision impaired.

Heroin(e), February 15: See above

The Killing of a Sacred Deer, February 20: Colin Farrell plays a cardiovascular surgeon who takes a fatherless teen under his wing with menacing consequences. Faculty led discussion to follow.

The Florida Project, February 22: A 6-year-old girl and her mother live in a budget hotel outside Disney World. VMA Assistant Professor Korbett Matthews will lead discussion.

Free in Deed, February 27: See above

Lady Bird, March 1: Amid a rapidly shifting economic landscape, “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) clashes with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), despite being exactly like her. Co-sponsored by the MIT Women Take the Reel Series. Assistant Professor Eileen McBride of the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies will lead discussion.

“Matters of Life and Death,” March 13: See above

In the Hills and Hollows, March 15: See above. Co-sponsored by the MIT Women Take the Reel Series.

Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart, March 20: The first-ever feature-length documentary about Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright who wrote A Raisin in the Sun. Co-sponsored by Wicked Queer: LGBT Film Festival and the MIT Women Take the Reel Series. Writer/producer/director Tracy Heather Strain will lead discussion.

Unrest, March 22: A PhD student documents her own struggle with myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome). Co-presented with the ReelAbilities Film Festival and the MIT Women Take the Reel Series. A panel discussion on ME will follow the screening, which will be presented with audio description for the vision impaired.

Barracuda, March 27: See above. Co-sponsored by the Independent Film Festival of Boston and the MIT Women Take the Reel Series.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, March 29: When police are unable to solve a murder, the victim’s mother (Academy Award-winner Frances McDormand) takes matters into her own hands. VMA Associate Professor Jean Stawarz will lead discussion.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, April 3: The true story of what inspired Harvard psychologist William Moulton Marston to create the iconic Wonder Woman character in the 1940s. Co-presented as part of the Wicked Queer: LGBT Film Festival. VMA Assistant Professor Sarah Zaidan will lead discussion.

BPM (Beats Per Minute), April 5: Two HIV/AIDS activists fall in love in early 1990s Paris. Co-presented as part of Wicked Queer. VMA Senior Scholar-in-Residence Ken Feil will lead discussion. In French, with English subtitles.

I, Tonya, April 10: A black comedy based on the true events surrounding figure skater Tonya Harding’s life and career. VMA Associate Professor Miranda Banks will lead discussion.

The Disaster Artist, April 12: The story behind the making of 2002’s The Room, “the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.” VMA Assistant Professor Ed Lee will lead discussion.

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