When Life Becomes Art
Five Lewis & Clark graduates make their mark as documentary filmmakers.
by Lisa Albers
The documentary film genre has come a long way from Nanook of the North and Wild Kingdom. When Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, a new era for the documentary was born. An avalanche of films followed Moore's commercial and critical success, from muckrakers such as An Inconvenient Truth and Who Killed the Electric Car? to traditional documentations such as the story of the Apollo space program, In the Shadow of the Moon, and the portrayal of musician Neil Young, Heart of Gold.
While the surge in interest has catapulted some documentary filmmakers into rock-star status, others remain lesser known but equally devoted to the craft. The five Lewis & Clark graduates interviewed for this article, as artists, must combine progressive idealism and pragmatic realism. They have to be both producers and poets. They must balance their own viewpoints against those of their subjects. They are well-rounded, articulate communicators who can approach a subject with a broad-based understanding of its inherent complexity. All have found their liberal arts educations from Lewis & Clark to be ideal preparation for the work of documentary filmmaking.
Real Native American Stories
Sandra Sunrising Osawa B.A '64 has been making films for 30 years. Both poetic and political, her filmmaking approach can be traced back to her study at Lewis & Clark in political science and English. Read more.
A Complex Portrait of the Land
What's most striking about Arid Lands, the debut film from Grant Aaker B.A. '02 and Josh Wallaert B.A. '02, is what it doesn't do. The filmmaking duo steers clear of polemic in this complex portrait of eastern Washington. While the two don't pull any punches, neither do they accost unsuspecting interview subjects or ridicule any segment of government or society. There's no controlling narrative leading to a singular, damning conclusion. Instead, they let their 27 subjects speak for themselves without voice-over or directorial intrusion. Read more.
Capturing the Sustainability Movement
David Decker B.S. '81 and Douglas Freeman B.S. '79 have made their livings in film for more than 20 years by providing their services to corporations, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations. Decker has produced training films for Hewlett-Packard and a variety of other clients, from high-tech to manufacturing. Freeman has written scripts for industrial marketing and training programs. Read more.
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