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Emerson Visual and Media Arts Department Releases Spring 2017 Bright Lights Schedule

BOSTON, MA (January 11, 2017)—On Thursday, January 26, Emerson College’s Visual and Media Arts (VMA) Department kicks off the spring line-up for its Bright Lights Film Series. All screenings feature post-film discussions with special guest filmmakers, faculty, and alumni, including producer Aaron Ryder ’94 (Arrival) via Skype; co-producer and animation director Craig Staggs (Tower); producer Sarah Green ’81 (Loving) via Skype; writer and director Ian MacAllister McDonald, producer Sarah Edrie, and composer Walter Sickert (Some Freaks); producer and actor David Alan Basche ’90 (Equity); director Alex Lehmann ’04 (Blue Jay and Asperger’s Are Us); and writer and director Ido Haar and songwriter and YouTube star Samantha “Princess Shaw” Montgomery (Presenting Princess Shaw).    

The sixth annual It’s All True student documentary festival, which showcases exceptional documentary work from Emerson College undergraduate and graduate students, will be included in this season’s Bright Light Film Series. On Thursday, April 6, the Festival will feature notable documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee, who is best known for his films Sherman's MarchTime IndefiniteSix O'Clock News, and Bright Leaves.

All screenings, which are free and open to the public, begin at 7:00 pm and take place in the Bright Family Screening Room, located at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street. Seating is first come, first served, and there is no advance registration with exception of the series opener, Arrival. Due to anticipated demand, tickets will be available, one per person, starting at 5:00 pm at the Paramount Center box office on the day of the show.

For additional information about screenings and updates on special guests, visit the Bright Lights Series website and Facebook page. View the season’s trailer:

Bright Lights Series, Spring 2017:

Thursday, January 26: Arrival
Denis Villeneuve | 85 minutes | USA, 2016

When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team—led by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams)—is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers—and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity. A discussion via Skype with producer Aaron Ryder ‘94 will follow the screening. F, EC

Tuesday, January 31: Newtown
Kim A. Snyder | 85 minutes | USA, 2016

Filmed over the course of nearly three years, the filmmakers use unique access and never-before-heard testimonies to tell a story of the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history on December 14, 2012. Newtown documents a traumatized community fractured by grief and driven toward a sense of purpose. Joining the ranks of a growing club to which no one wants to belong, a cast of characters interconnect to weave an intimate story of community resilience. A discussion with director Kim A. Snyder will follow the screening. W,SJ

Thursday, February 2: 13TH
Ava DuVernay | 100 minutes | USA, 2016

The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary 13TH refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis. A panel discussion on mass incarceration will follow the screening. W, SJ, POC

Tuesday, February 7: Tower
Keith Maitland | 96 minutes | USA, 2016

On August 1, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included 16 dead, 3 dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to understand. Combining archival footage with rotoscopic animation in a dynamic, never-before-seen way, Tower reveals the action-packed untold stories of the witnesses, heroes, and survivors of America’s first mass school shooting, when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others. A discussion with co-producer and animation director Craig Staggs will follow the screening. SJ

Thursday, February 9: Loving
Jeff Nichols | 123 minutes | USA, 2016

Interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving fell in love and were married in 1958. They grew up in Central Point, a small town in Virginia that was more integrated than surrounding areas in the American South. Yet it was the state of Virginia, where they were making their home and starting a family that first jailed and then banished them. Richard and Mildred relocated with their children to the inner city of Washington, DC, but the family ultimately tries to find a way back to Virginia. A discussion via Skype with producer Sarah Green will follow the screening. F, POC, SJ, EC

Tuesday, February 14: Some Freaks
Ian MacAllister McDonald | 96 minutes | USA, 2016

A charming romance develops between a boy with one eye (Thomas Mann) and an overweight girl (Lily Mae Harrington), though when she loses weight after going to college, their relationship is tested in devastating ways they never dreamed would happen. A discussion with writer and director Ian MacAllister McDonald, producer Sarah Edrie, and composer Walter Sickert will follow the screening. F, D

Thursday, February 16: Under the Shadow
Babak Anvari | 84 minutes | Jordan, 2016

After Shideh’s building is hit by a missile during the Iran-Iraq War, a superstitious neighbor suggests that the missile was cursed and might be carrying malevolent Middle Eastern spirits. She becomes convinced a supernatural force within the building is attempting to possess her daughter Dorsa, and she has no choice but to confront these forces if she is to save her daughter and herself. A discussion with Emerson faculty will follow the screening. F, POC, I

Tuesday, February 21: Other People’s Footage
Diane E. Carson and Robert Johnson, Jr. | 75 minutes | USA, 2016

Other People’s Footage: Copyright and Fair Use explores the three questions crucial to determining fair use exemptions and presents illustrative examples from nonfiction, fiction, and experimental films that use pre-existing footage, music and sound from other individuals' creations—without permission or paying fees. Through on-camera interviews with noted documentarians, film and legal experts, OPF also reviews relevant court cases and clarifies legal issues regarding trademark, parody, and shooting on location or in a controlled setting. A discussion with directors Diane Carson and Robert Johnson will follow the screening. POC, W

Tuesday, February 28: The Neon Demon
Nicholas Winding Refn | 118 minutes | USA, 2016

When aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will use any means necessary to get what she has in The Neon Demon, the new horror thriller from Nicolas Winding Refn. A discussion with Emerson faculty will follow the screening. F, LGBTQ

Thursday, March 2: Untouchable
David Feige | 105 minutes | USA, 2016

When the most powerful lobbyist in Florida discovers that the nanny has sexually abused his daughter, he harnesses his extraordinary political power to pass the toughest sex offender laws in the nation. Untouchable chronicles his crusade and its impact on the lives of several of the 800,000 people forced to live under the kinds of laws he has championed. The film interweaves intimate portraits of men and women who have been branded sex offenders with the heartbreaking stories of those who have suffered sexual abuse. It is a film that pushes viewers toward an uncomfortable place, requiring them to walk in the shoes of those who have survived sexual abuse, but to still bear witness to the experiences of those we revile. A panel discussion led by producer Rebecca Richman Cohen will follow the screening. SJ

Tuesday, March 14: Trumbo
Jay Roach | 124 minutes | USA, 2015

In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was Hollywood's top screenwriter until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. Trumbo recounts how Dalton used words and wit to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice under the blacklist, which entangled everyone from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) to John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and Otto Preminger. Preceded by 1954, directed by Tom Kingdon, drama, 15 minutes, 2016. A child and his family experience the effects of the anti-Communist witch-hunt of the 1950s. A discussion with VMA faculty member Tom Kingdon will follow the screening. SJ

Thursday, March 16: Equity
Meera Menon | 100 minutes | USA, 2016

Naomi Bishop is an investment banker determined to overcome a previous stain to her professional reputation, which is a challenge in the male–dominated financial sector she works in. As Naomi, in that spirit, makes her move managing a burgeoning new tech IPO, she has to endure not only the condescension of her colleagues, but also her imperious client even as troubling new developments cloud the venture's future. Against that, the probing of a college friend turned federal investment law prosecutor and the conniving of her double-dealing boyfriend seem to be manageable complications, until a betrayal by a trusted colleague threatens to ruin everything. A discussion with producer and actor David Alan Basche ’90 will follow the screening. Equity is a part of the MIT Women Take the Reel series. F, W, EC, LGBTQ

Tuesday, March 21: Remedy
Cheyenne Picardo | 120 minutes | USA, 2013

Remedy follows a young woman from the underground kink clubs of New York City into the world of commodified BDSM where workers are paid to embody the sexual and psychological fantasies of complete strangers. Despite her habitually submissive tastes, the woman finds a job as a dominatrix at a commercial dungeon, working under the pseudonym “Mistress Remedy.” Before long, her personal proclivities peek through the veneer. She begins to show her compliant side to a few regulars. Soon an unscrupulous night manager asks Remedy to session with dominant clients, where she will be the client’s slave for the hour. Remedy quickly realizes that her submissiveness at home does not prepare her for the pressures and risks of this lesser-known side of the sexual service industry. A discussion with director Cheyenne Picardo, moderated by author Melissa Gira Grant, will follow the screening. Remedy is a part of the MIT Women Take the Reel series. F, W, LGBTQ

Thursday, March 23: Deprogrammed
Mia Donovan | 85 minutes | USA, 2015

Deprogrammed chronicles Ted “Black Lightning” Patrick’s anti-cult crusade. His practice of ‘deprogramming,’ also known as “reverse brainwashing,” started in the early 1970s and quickly snowballed into a vast underground movement composed of concerned parents, ex-cultist-turned-deprogrammers, and some sympathetic law enforcers whose mission was to physically and mentally remove individuals from “cults.” A discussion with director Mia Donovan will follow the screening. Deprogrammed is a part of the MIT Women Take the Reel series. W, POC, I

Tuesday, March 28: Blue Jay
Alex Lehmann | 80 minutes | USA, 2016

Former high school sweethearts Jim and Amanda have been out of touch for more than 20 years—but they run into each other at a grocery store back in their alpine hometown of Crestline, California. Jim’s mother has died and he’s there to put her house on the market. Amanda is visiting her pregnant sister. They get to talking, first over coffee, then over beer and jellybeans. Before they know it they’re at Jim’s mother’s house, where everything sends them spiraling back into the past. A discussion with director Alex Lehmann ’04 will follow the screening. EC

Thursday, March 30: Asperger’s Are Us
Alex Lehmann | 82 minutes | USA, 2016

From critically acclaimed producers The Duplass Brothers comes Asperger’s Are Us. In this coming-of-age documentary directed by Alex Lehmann, ​four friends on the autism spectrum who have bonded through humor and performed as the comedy troupe Asperger's Are Us will prepare for one final, ambitious show before going their separate ways. A discussion with director Alex Lehmann ’04 will follow the screening. D, EC, COM

Tuesday, April 4: Presenting Princess Shaw
Ido Haar | 83 minutes | Israel, 2016

Princess Shaw placed her dreams on YouTube. Then they became a reality. This is the extraordinary true story of an aspiring musician down on her luck, who inspired internationally famous YouTube artist Kutiman to create a magical collaboration that would bring her music to a whole new audience. A discussion with star Princess Shaw and writer/director Ido Haar will follow the screening. LGBTQ, POC, I

Thursday, April 6: It’s All True

This is the sixth year of It’s All True, Emerson's annual student documentary festival, showcasing exceptional documentary work from Emerson College undergraduate and graduate students. The evening of screenings culminates a two-day event, this year featuring notable personal documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee, who will be on hand to interface with student filmmakers, attend classes, and screen his own work the prior night. EC

Tuesday, April 11: Christine
Antonio Campos | 119 minutes | USA, 2016

Rebecca Hall stars in director Antonio Campos' third feature film, Christine, the story of a woman who finds herself caught in the crosshairs of a spiraling personal life and career crisis. Christine, always the smartest person in the room at her local Sarasota, Florida, news station, feels like she is destined for bigger things and is relentless in her pursuit of an on-air position in a larger market. As an aspiring newswoman with an eye for nuance and an interest in social justice, she finds herself constantly butting heads with her boss (Tracy Letts), who pushes for juicier stories that will drive up ratings. Plagued by self-doubt and a tumultuous home life, Christine’s diminishing hope begins to rise when an on-air co-worker (Michael C. Hall) initiates a friendship that ultimately becomes yet another unrequited love. Disillusioned as her world continues to close in on her, Christine takes a dark and surprising turn. A discussion with Journalism Assistant Professor Tim Riley will follow the screening. D, F

Thursday, April 13: Kate Plays Christine
Robert Greene | 112 minutes | USA, 2016

Filmmaker Robert Greene cleverly forgoes your standard talking-head-and-sound-bite approach to nonfiction storytelling, instead choosing to employ Kate Lyn Sheil as a conduit to understanding an impossibly complex issue. Committed to doing justice to Christine’s life, Kate not only candidly pulls back the curtain on her acting process, but she also reveals the biases and presumptions even supposed experts can provide in their diagnosis. Kate Plays Christine boldly challenges its subjects and audience alike to accept that answers from the past are never easy. A discussion with Performing Arts Assistant Professor Lindsay Beamish will follow the screening. D

Tuesday, April 18: The Handmaiden
Park Chan-wook | 144 minutes | South Korea, 2016

From Park Chan-wook, the celebrated director of Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and Stoker, comes a ravishing new crime drama. Chan-wook presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women: a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with Park Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience. A discussion with Emerson faculty will follow the screening. F, POC, I, LGBTQ

Thursday, April 20: Moonlight
Barry Jenkins | 111 minutes | USA, 2016

A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. At once a vital portrait of contemporary African American life and an intensely personal and poetic meditation on identity, family, friendship, and love, Moonlight is a groundbreaking piece of cinema that reverberates with deep compassion and universal truths. Anchored by extraordinary performances from a tremendous ensemble cast, Jenkins’s staggering, singular vision is profoundly moving in its portrayal of the moments, people, and unknowable forces that shape our lives and make us who we are. A discussion with Emerson faculty will follow the screening. POC, LGBTQ

Bright Lights Series Film Ratings:

F: Feminist (Bath Film Festival rating)
W: Directed by women
POC: Directed by or featuring people of color
EC: Emerson College community
D: Dealing with disability issues
I: International cinema
LGBTQ: Dealing with LGBTQ issues
SJ: Social justice cinema
COM: Comedy

About Emerson College
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson College educates individuals who will solve problems and change the world through engaged leadership in communication and the arts, a mission informed by liberal learning. The College has approximately 3,500 undergraduates and 670 graduate students from across the United States and 50 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 90 student organizations and performance groups. Emerson is known for its experiential learning programs at Emerson Los Angeles, located in Hollywood, and at its 14th-century castle in the Netherlands. Additionally, there are opportunities to study in Washington, DC, London, China, the Czech Republic, Spain, Austria, Greece, France, Ireland, Mexico, Cuba, England, and South Africa. The College has an active network of 37,000 alumni who hold leadership positions in communication and the arts. For more information, visit

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