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Fall 2017 Schedule Announced for the Bright Lights Film Series at Emerson College

BOSTON, MA (September 11, 2017)—On Tuesday, September 19, Emerson College’s Visual and Media Arts Department will kick off the fall line-up for its Bright Lights Film Series, and for the first time ever, more than half of those films are made by women. All screenings, which are free and open to the public, feature post-film discussions with special guest filmmakers, faculty, and alumni, including director Robin Berghaus and film subject Will Lautenheiser (Stumped); alumna director Ramona Diaz (Motherland); and film subject Bill Genovese and director James D Solomon (The Witness). A special live, in-person exhibit will take place before the screening of Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive. 

Fourteen of the 23 films and showcases presented during the Fall 2017 season are directed by or include work from female filmmakers, earning them a “W rating” in the Bright Lights Series’ rating system. Other ratings include F (feminist films), POC (produced by/featuring people of color), SJ (dealing with social justice themes), I (international), LGBT, D (by/featuring people with disabilities), and EC (made by a member of the Emerson community). The series is committed to crafting a diverse program including filmmakers of color, queer cinema, and films dealing with disability.

“Much of the conversation around the need to support women directors focuses on production,” said Anna Feder, director of programming. “That's a crucial discussion, but we also need to talk about the entire ecosystem. I'm hoping to start this conversation locally and to encourage my peers in film exhibition to make equity a commitment—we need more women's stories.”

The first woman-directed film of the semester (September 21) is Risk, a documentary by Academy Award-winning director Laura Poitras. Other “W rated” films this season include: Chavela; Whose Streets?; Kedi; The Black Maria Film Festival; Band Aid; Rasheed; An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power; Prevenge; The Love Witch; Motherland; Weird Healing: The Animation of Opertura; Stumped; and The Beguiled. 

All screenings start at 7:00 pm and take place at Emerson’s Paramount Center Bright Family Screening Room, located at 559 Washington Street, Boston. Seating is first come, first served. There is no advance registration with the exception of Get Out. Tickets for the Get Out screening will be available on a first-come basis at the Paramount Center box office, starting at 5:00 pm the day of show (Tuesday, September 19). 

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

Bright Lights Series—Fall 2017

Tuesday, September 19: Get Out
Jordan Peele | Horror/Suspense | 104 minutes | USA, 2017
Film ratings: POC, F
It's time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend's parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambience will give way to a nightmare. A discussion led by Assistant Professor Erika Williams will follow the screening.

Thursday, September 21: Risk
Laura Poitras | Documentary | 92 minutes | USA, 2017
Film ratings: W, SJ, I
Laura Poitras, Academy-award winning director of CITIZENFOUR, returns with her most personal and intimate film to date. Filmed over six years, Risk is a complex and volatile character study that collides with a high stakes election year and its controversial aftermath. Cornered in a tiny building for half a decade, Julian Assange is undeterred even as the legal jeopardy he faces threatens to undermine the organization he leads and fracture the movement he inspired. In a new world order where a single keystroke can alter history, Risk is a portrait of power, betrayal, truth, and sacrifice. A discussion led by Assistant Professor Russell Newman will  follow the screening. 

Tuesday, September 26: Wander, Wonder, Wilderness
Paul Turano | Documentary | 58 minutes | USA, 2015
Film rating: EC
Wander, Wonder, Wilderness is a documentary project that explores the urban wilds and parks of Greater Boston. This hourlong essay film chronicles the filmmaker's engagement with green spaces in an urban environment and explores the complex notions that they reveal about human ecology. A discussion with the director and Assistant Professor Paul Turano will follow the screening. 

Thursday, September 28: Chavela
Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi | Documentary | 90 minutes | USA, 2017
Film ratings: POC, LGBTQ, W, I
Through its lyrical structure, Chavela will take viewers on an evocative, thought-provoking journey through the iconoclastic life of game-changing artist Chavela Vargas. Centered around never-before-seen interview footage of Chavela shot 20 years before her death in 2012, and guided by the stories in Chavela's songs and the myths and tales others have told about her—as well as those she spread about herself—the film weaves an arresting portrait of a woman who dared to dress, speak, sing, and dream her unique life into being. A discussion with co-director Dareshi Kyi via Skype will follow the screening.

Tuesday, October 3: I Am Not Your Negro
Raoul Peck | Documentary | 93 minutes | USA, 2017
Film ratings: POC, SJ, LGBTQ
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin's death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of this manuscript. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. A panel discussion led by Associate Professor Kimberly McLarin will follow the screening.   

Thursday, October 5: Whose Streets?
Sabaah Folayan | Documentary | 90 minutes | USA, 2017
Film ratings: POC, W, SJ
Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis, Missouri. Grief, long-standing racial tensions, and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy. Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together as freedom fighters. As the national guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, these young community members become the torchbearers of a new resistance. A discussion with director Sabaah Folayan will follow the screening.   

Tuesday, October 10: Kedi
Ceyda Torun | Documentary | 80 minutes | Turkey, 2016
Film ratings: W, I, POC
Hundreds of thousands of cats have roamed the metropolis of Istanbul freely for thousands of years, wandering in and out of people's lives, impacting them in ways only an animal who lives between the worlds of the wild and the tamed can. Cats and their kittens bring joy and purpose to those they choose, giving people an opportunity to reflect on life and their place in it. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to ourselves. A discussion with director Ceyda Torun via Skype will follow the screening.

Thursday, October 12: The Black Maria Film Festival
Various directors | Animation/Experimental/Documentary | 101 minutes | USA/Netherlands/Poland, 2016
Film ratings: POC, W, F, I, EC
Black Maria is an international juried film competition. It has embraced its mission for 35 years by focusing on short films including those that shine a light on issues and struggles within contemporary society. The touring programs always include provocative works. The festival advances and exhibits the work of diverse filmmakers from across the U.S. and around the world. These artists often represent an under-served constituency who might not otherwise have the opportunity for live public exhibition nationwide or abroad. The festival will be screening a curated selection of animation, documentary, and experimental shorts. A discussion led by Professor Rob Todd with a few of the directors, including Assistant Professor Paul Turano, will follow the screening.


Tuesday, October 17: Band Aid

Zoe Lister-Jones | Comedy | 91 minutes | USA, 2017

Film ratings: W, F, EC, COM

Anna and Ben can't stop fighting. Advised by their therapist to try and work through their grief unconventionally, they are reminded of their shared love of music. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, they decide to turn all of their fights into songs, and with the help of their neighbor, Dave, they start a band. A discussion with alumnae producers Natalia Anderson ’06 and Kristen Murtha ’09 via Skype will follow the screening. 

Thursday, October 19: Colossal
Nacho Vigloando | Drama/Comedy | 89 minutes | USA/Spain, 2016
Film ratings: F, I, COM
Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in New York City and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon. A discussion led by Assistant Professor Sarah Zaidan will follow the screening.

Tuesday, October 24: Rasheed
Samia Badih | Documentary | 74 minutes | USA/Lebanon/UAE, 2017
Film ratings: W, POC, SJ, I
Rasheed documents the life of Badih’s late uncle, Rasheed Broum, who was killed at the age of 29 in an airstrike in the city of Sidon during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982—three years before she was born. More than 30 years after the tragedy, Badih goes on a quest to find out more about her uncle’s story of life and death, as it is told by the friends and family who survived him and knew him best, mainly his sister Rasha and his best friend Ghassan. At the heart of the film is the story of Rasheed’s sister, Rasha, who has not coped well with her brother’s loss. Rasheed captures one of the many war stories from the southern city of Sidon, Lebanon, through Badih’s own personal journey. A discussion with director Samia Badih via Skype will follow the screening.

Thursday, October 26: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk | Documentary | 98 minutes | USA, 2017
Film ratings: W, SJ
A sequel to The Inconvenient Truth, the follow-up documentary addresses the progress made to tackle the problem of climate change and Al Gore's global efforts to persuade governmental leaders to invest in renewable energy, culminating in the landmark signing of 2016's Paris Climate Agreement. A live stream Q&A with Al Gore will follow the screening.

Tuesday, October 31: Prevenge
Alice Lowe | Drama/Horror | 88 minutes | UK, 2016
Film ratings: W, F, I
A pitch black, wryly British comedy from the mind of Alice Lowe, Prevenge follows Ruth, a pregnant woman on a killing spree that's as funny as it is vicious. It's her misanthropic unborn baby dictating Ruth's actions, holding society responsible for the absence of a father. The child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to lure and ultimately kill her unsuspecting victims. Struggling with her conscience, loneliness, and a strange strain of prepartum madness, Ruth must ultimately choose between redemption and destruction at the moment of motherhood. A discussion led by Boston Underground Film Festival Artistic Director Kevin Monahan will follow the screening. 

Thursday, November 2: The Love Witch
Anna Biller | Comedy/Horror | 120 minutes | USA, 2016
Film ratings: W, F
Elaine, a beautiful young witch, is determined to find a man to love her. In her gothic Victorian apartment, she makes spells and potions and then picks up men and seduces them. However, her spells work too well, leaving her with a string of hapless victims. When she finally meets the man of her dreams, her desperation to be loved will drive her to the brink of insanity and murder. With a visual style that pays tribute to Technicolor thrillers of the ’60s, The Love Witch explores female fantasy and the repercussions of pathological narcissism. A discussion with director Anna Biller via Skype will follow the screening.

Tuesday, November 7: The Witness
James D Solomon | Documentary | 89 minutes | USA, 2015
Film ratins: SJ, D, LGBTQ
Kitty Genovese became synonymous with apathy after news that she was stabbed to death on a New York City street while 38 witnesses did nothing. Forty years later, her brother decides to find the truth. He uncovers a lie that transformed his life, condemned a city, and defined an era. A discussion with film subject Bill Genovese and director James D Solomon will follow the screening.

Thursday, November 9: Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Eric Stange | Documentary | 84 minutes | USA, 2016
Film rating(s): none
After his death, writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) became a global icon of modern literature and a pop culture brand. An orphan in search of family, love, and literary fame, Poe struggled with alcoholism and was also a product of early 19th century American urban life: depressed from the era’s culture of death due to the high mortality rate and the struggles of living in poverty. Poe famously died under mysterious circumstances and his cause of death remains unknown. A discussion with director Eric Stange will follow the screening.

Tuesday, November 14: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
David France | Documentary | 105 minutes | USA, 2017
Film ratings: POC, LGBTQ, SJ
David France directed this documentary look at the life of Marsha P. Johnson, a notable activist for trans rights in New York City who was found dead in 1992. France enlists Johnson's former friends and activists to reconstruct her life of political advocacy and try to piece together the events that led to her death. A discussion with producer L.A. Teodisio will follow the screening; The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson is a part of Trans Awareness Week.    

Thursday, November 16: Silversonic
Film ratings: EC, POC, W
Silversonic is an annual showcase of music videos made by current Emerson students and alumni. It is a celebration of the combination of music and image as a unique art form worthy of exhibition in a cinema environment. A reception with musicians and filmmakers will following the screening. 

Tuesday, November 28: Motherland
Ramona Diaz | Documentary | 94 minutes | USA/Philippines, 2017
Film ratings: W, POC, I, EC
Taking us into the heart of the planet's busiest maternity hospital, the viewer is dropped like an unseen outsider into the hospital's stream of activity. At first, the people are strangers. As the film continues, it's absorbingly intimate, rendering the women at the heart of the story increasingly familiar. A discussion with alumna director Ramona Diaz will follow the screening.

Thursday, November 30: Weird Healing: The Animation of Opertura
Film ratings: POC, W
Opertura is the collaborative artist unit formed by Aya Yamasaki and Jason Brown. They create hand-drawn animation, illustration, comics, installation, and more, drawing inspiration from the natural and magical world, the humorous and tragic, and folk storytelling traditions. Their work has screened and been presented domestically and abroad. A discussion with directors Aya Yamasaki and Jason Brown will follow the screening.   

Tuesday, December 5: Stumped
Robin Berghaus | Documentary | 72 minutes | USA, 2017
Film ratings: W, D, LGBTQ
When filmmaker Will Lautzenheiser's limbs are amputated, his life is derailed and he turns to stand-up comedy as therapy. Meanwhile, a world-famous medical team is performing transplants that restore bodies to unprecedented levels. Despite grave risks, Will agrees to undergo an experimental double-arm transplant in the hope of reclaiming his independence. A discussion with director Robin Berghaus and film subject Will Lautzenheiser will follow the screening.

Thursday, December 7: Tom of Finland
Dome Karukoski | Drama | 115 minutes | Finland, 2017
Film ratings: LGBTQ, I
Touko Laaksonen, a decorated officer, returns home after a harrowing and heroic experience serving his country in World War II, but life in Finland during peacetime proves equally distressing. He finds peace-time Helsinki rampant with persecution of the homosexual and men around him even being pressured to marry women and have children. Touko finds refuge in his liberating art, specializing in homoerotic drawings of muscular men, free of inhibitions. His work made famous by his signature “Tom of Finland” became the emblem of a generation of men and fanned the flames of a gay revolution. A discussion led by Assistant Professor Benoit Denizet-Lewis will follow the screening.

Tuesday, December 12: The Beguiled
Sofia Coppola | Drama | 93 minutes | USA, 2017
Film ratings: W, F
Corporal John McBurney is an injured Union soldier who finds himself on the run as a deserter during the Civil War. He seeks refuge at an all-female Southern boarding school where the teachers and students seem more than willing to help. Soon, sexual tensions lead to dangerous rivalries as the women tend to his wounded leg while offering him comfort and companionship. A discussion with Associate Professor Miranda Banks will follow the screening.

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