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Documentary Festival Comes to the Wex

Hope Madden Hope Madden Documentary Festival Comes to the WexPhoto still of documentary Quest.
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The Wexner Center for the Arts, whose documentary programming has become a cornerstone of the film/video department, turns their passion for nonfiction storytelling into a film center festival.

Unorthodocs!, a four-day slate of documentaries, opens its doors for the first time Thursday, October 19.

“It’s kind of been building for a little while,” explains Chris Stults, associate curator for the department.

“Documentary has become an increasingly stronger part of our programming all year round,” he says. “It’s a really interesting time for documentary in lots of ways in terms of what’s being produced. A lot of the most interesting stuff happening in cinema right now is tied to documentary or some intermixing of fiction and documentary—these types of hybrid films.”

Stults sees crowd reaction changing as well.

“Audiences are way more interested in documentary movies than they used to be,” he says.

He points to the popularity in recent documentary programming at the film center as proof.

“A lot of our most successful films have been documentaries. Just this past February we had a great run of I Am Not Your Negro,” Stults says of the Oscar-nominated doc. “It’s been the most successful film we’ve shown in our 28-year history.”

Unorthodocs! showcases nine features, a block of shorts, a host of visiting filmmakers and a peek into the making of nonfiction films.

“We kick things off Thursday afternoon with a master class by two very notable Ohio filmmakers, Steven Bognar and Julie Reichert,” he says.

The pair were nominated for an Oscar for their 2009 doc The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant.

“They’ll show some of the nuts and bolts in their process,” Stults says. “It will be a really memorable afternoon with two amazing filmmakers.”

Other highlights include a screening of Jonathan Olshefski’s festival-lauded film Quest.

“Over the course of 10 years the filmmaker filmed the life of a family struggling to get by in North Philadelphia,” Stults says. “It’s almost a documentary equivalent of Linklater’s Boyhood. It’s just suffused with love and generosity of spirit. It’s so hard to come out of that film unmoved.”

Both the director and his editor, Lindsay Utz, will be on-hand for the screening.

“I’m really curious to talk to her about editing 10 years’ worth of footage into an under two-hour film,” Stults says. “That should be a fun conversation.”

Between the array of films and the opportunity to meet and mingle with filmmakers, Stults expects the series to be quite an event.

“It allows for a bit more celebration of the form, emphasizing the range of possibility within documentary,” he says. “It’s a celebration of what documentary is capable of.”

Unorthodocs! full line-up
Thursday, October 19

  • 4:30 p.m. – Documentary Filmmaking Masterclass with Steven Bognar and Julie Reichert
  • 7 p.m. – Faces Places
  • 9 p.m. – The Road Movie

Friday, October 20

  • 5:15 p.m. – Shorts
  • 7 p.m. – The Force

Saturday, October 21

  • Noon – Rat Film
  • 2 p.m. – Lightning Over Braddock: A Rustbowl Fantasy (with director Tony Buba)
  • 4 p.m. – Spettacolo (with directors Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen)
  • 6 p.m. – Filmmakers’ Reception
  • 7 p.m. – Quest (with director Jonathan Olshefski and editor Lindsay Utz)

Sunday, October 22

  • 1 p.m. – Cousin Bobby
  • 3 p.m. – Brimstone & Glory
  • 4:30 p.m. – 78/52

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her podcasts FRIGHT CLUB and THE SCREENING ROOM.

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