Meredith College hosted its sixth annual Documentary Film Festival on Sunday, January 27, in Carswell Auditorium. The festival included eight short documentaries, one documentary film, and a few documentaries produced by Meredith students.
Associate Professor of English Alisa Johnson takes charge of putting the event together every year. The festival is free and open to the public, but the setting is still small and intimate.
Johnson believes that the documentary is one of the most important forms of film because of its informational and educational capacities.
“We are living in an area rich with documentary filmmakers, especially female ones, and as a women’s college it makes sense for us to showcase them,” said Johnson. “Our film festival is a community event, so it encourages people who may not otherwise come to Meredith to be here, meet us, and learn new things.”
Mary Lynch Johnson Professor of English Garry Walton said, “Part of what I love is the variety. Some are animated, playful, serious, or even inspiring. It shows how you can make a movie in a number of different ways.”
This year’s film festival included documentaries on various topics from the first female rabbi who died in Auschwitz, to a 49-year-old blind woman who learned to swim despite a fear of water, to an animated film about a man who buys a butterfly plant but waits a long time for the butterflies to arrive, and many more.
For Lizbeth Hall, ’19, the film festival provides an opportunity to gain awareness of the lifestyles of other people. “I came last year and learned so much about other cultures that I didn’t know very much about. Some of the films really opened my eyes,” said Hall.
An interesting aspect of this year’s festival was the one-on-one interaction with some of the filmmakers. There were three discussions with film directors moderated by filmmaker Camden Watts, ’03.
Johnson believes having filmmakers there to talk with the audience enhances the experience of watching the films. “As an audience, we have a close connection,” said Johnson. “When the filmmakers are here to talk about their films, it brings us together.”
Rebecca Duncan, professor of English, loves watching a story unfold in such a unique way. “It’s awesome to watch a story told in this way,” said Duncan. “Documentaries are a wonderful creative tool.”
Being so involved with the film festival is one of Johnson’s passions. “I love the entire process of preparing for the festival – going to other festivals, looking at websites, taking recommendations – and I love contacting filmmakers and bringing them to campus,” said Johnson. “Everything about the festival brings me joy, so I want to continue doing it.”
The Meredith College Documentary Film Festival is presented by the Department of English and funded by the Mary Lynch Johnson Chair in English with cooperation from Carlyle Campbell Library.