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Wex’s Unorthodocs Program Explores Documentary Form

Hope Madden Hope Madden Wex’s Unorthodocs Program Explores Documentary FormPhoto still from "Minding the Gap," via IMDb.
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There is more to nonfiction filmmaking than what your garden variety documentary may suggest. Last year, the Wexner Center for the Arts set out to explore all that documentary could mean in terms of content and form. Thursday, Oct. 25 through Saturday, Oct. 27 they revisit the topic with their second annual Unorthodocs program.

“The usual film festival has a sense of randomness,” says festival programmer and Wex’s Associate Curator, Chris Stults. “This festival is more selected. It’s almost this journey you could go through as a viewer. In total it kind of adds up to this picture of the creative possibilities of the documentary form right now and throughout history.”

The explosive rise in documentary success in recent years may generate additional attention for the series, but Stults sees the opportunity to explore more than just content with Columbus audiences.

“One of the main hopes of the series is to just give a chance to think about what documentary means or could be,” he says. “I don’t even like to use the word documentary when talking about it. Creative nonfiction is a better way when talking about what these films are up to. Most everything is as radical in form as it is in content.”

Stults credits time spent at film festivals, close attention to buzz in the market and great timing for this year’s exciting Unorthodocs lineup.

Bisbee ’17 might be my favorite movie I’ve seen this year,” he says of one film on the docket. “The Terror Nullius film – it’s the most raucous, anarchistic, pop culture free for all that I’ve been waiting to see for a long time.”

Stults is also thrilled about the slew of visiting filmmakers slated to make an appearance at this year’s Unorthodocs.

“One of the things that was real exciting last year for audiences and the filmmakers was that we had five filmmakers here over the course of the weekend,” he remembers. “Most of them were here for the whole weekend. The sense of community was great, and I’m excited that this year even more filmmakers will be here. It’s exciting that the filmmakers will be able to spend time together, and also that audiences will get the chance to talk with filmmakers all weekend.”

Among those documentarians expected to attend is Bing Liu, whose Minding the Gap is among the very best reviewed films on IMDb.

“That film is just so powerful,” Stults says. “The filmmaker is from Rock Bridge, Illinois, and grew up with two buddies, skateboarding kids. And he became a filmmaker just to record their skateboard footage, but he goes on to record them over the next several decades. So it becomes like Boyhood or Hoop Dreams, but with this Jackass component. And then by the end of the film it becomes novelistic, the trajectory of these young men’s lives. It gets into some really tough issues about contemporary masculinity.”

The program features more than just new documentaries, though. Stults fills out the lineup with some choice classics, as well.

“Something that always feels important to me is to both place new films in the context of cinema’s history, but on the other hand, to show how older films can fit in so perfectly with contemporary films,” he says.

Unorthodocs runs from Oct. 25-28.

Passes are $38 for members, students and seniors, $45 for the general public.

You can also purchase single tickets for $6, $8 and $3 (children).

The full lineup:

Thursday, Oct. 25
4:30 p.m.
Documentary Filmmaking Masterclass with Yance Ford

7 p.m.
Shakedown (2017)
Director Leilah Weinraub in person

9 p.m.
Handsworth Songs (1986)

Friday, Oct. 26
5 p.m.

7 p.m.
Bisbee ’17 (2018)
Director Robert Greene in person

Saturday, Oct. 27
Soft Fiction (1979)

1:30 p.m.
Minding the Gap (2018)
Director Bing Liu in person

4:15 p.m.
América (2018)
Directors Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll in person

6-7 p.m.
Filmmaker Reception

7 p.m.
Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018)
Director RaMell Ross in person

9 p.m.
Blue Velvet Revisited (2016)

Sunday, Oct. 28
Wild Relatives (2018)

2:30 p.m.
Who Invented the Yoyo? Who Invented the Moon Buggy? (1979)

4:30 p.m.
Terror Nullius: A Political Revenge Fable in Three Acts (2018)
Filmmakers Soda_Jerk in person

4:30 p.m.
The Trial (2018)
Free with tickets

For more information, visit wexarts.org.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her podcast of film reviews, THE SCREENING ROOM.

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