The Graduate Certificate in Documentary Media Studies is proud to present its fourteenth annual festival of original short films made by students in the classes of 2020 and 2021. The event consists of the festival opening and four faculty-led Q&A sessions with the filmmakers. Each work is the result of a year of intensive study in documentary cinema — production, history and theory. The festival is a celebration of our students’ achievements, who completed their films in the program’s most challenging year.

Hosted by Amir Husak, Director of the Doc Studies program at The New School. Presented by the Graduate Certificate in Documentary Studies and the School of Media Studies at the Schools of Public Engagement.

“The Silent Willow” by Taylor-Alexis Gillard

Logline: Uterine fibroids affect Black women three times more than any other race. After being diagnosed, the filmmaker sets out to explore health inequities and find out why so many Black women are as silent as the growth.

Taylor-Alexis Gillard is a filmmaker & editor from Queens, New York who is currently working on a documentary to further the conversation on uterine fibroid awareness. After receiving her Masters in Media Studies and the Documentary Studies Certificate, she plans to continue making films that uplift the voices and stories of unconventional women.

“That Change I Have Seen” by Samantha Schulte

Logline: A blunt reality emerged early on in the coronavirus pandemic; certain communities were hit particularly hard. Little Pakistan in Central Brooklyn is one of them. It is here that we meet Nowshin Ali and Anurag Shrivastava, restaurateurs and co-founders of a nonprofit that supports low-income, immigrant families. THAT CHANGE I HAVE SEEN is a meditation on the power of crises to lay bare our deepest inequalities, and reveal our greatest heroes.

Samantha Schulte’s background is in creative content and research for technology companies in California. She is deeply grateful for The New School for being the home that’s helped her pivot her career in storytelling to one rooted in social change with the documentary — the best medium of our time for enacting impact. She is in love with this work and is eager to continue collaborating around the world on stories that matter.

Empire State of Chess” by Simon Tchoukriel

Logline: The game of chess has been bringing New Yorkers together for years in parks, squares, cozy clubs and tournament halls. But how can this beloved pastime survive amid a pandemic? Meet some of the city’s most interesting pawn pushers, grandmasters, club owners and street players who keep the hope, and the game, alive.

Simon Tchoukriel is a filmmaker from France who originally moved to New York to play college soccer. In his work Simon focuses on collectives and subcultures with a passion for games, whatever they may be, and what these activities tell us about our society at large.

“All That Is” by Valerie Neck

In September 2020, the filmmaker loses 95% of her belongings in the fires that devastate Southern Oregon. With a pandemic engulfing the world in flames of its own, she embarks on a poetic journey to make meaning of the losses. What emerges from the ashes?

Valerie Neck’s filmmaking reflects colorful life experiences, from being an army paratrooper in Italy to rescuing a street dog in Laos to supporting the dying as a hospice social worker. She has been described as blending the documentary gaze with mysticism, and using the camera to paint impressionist portraits of the world that both enchant and bedevil her.

“Four Dinners and a Pandemic” by Elisabeth Welch

How does anyone find hope and opportunity in 2020 when the world has seemingly fallen apart? Honoring their grandfather’s controversial wish to gather for family dinners, one suburban New Jersey family takes a step back and reevaluates life and time spent together.

Elisabeth Welch came to the New School in the midst of the pandemic with hopes of gaining experience in filmmaking at a time when it was so important to document the world we live in. She continues to explore topics close to her to see how they reflect the greater world around her.

“Congratulations, Class of 2020!” by Elizabeth Cornfeld

Graduating from college is a pivotal moment marked by an adjustment, as students leave the comforts of campus in search of jobs and new experiences. But for the graduates of 2020, senior year ended with a terrifying global health crisis. Using a blend of interviews, Zoom calls, news and TikTok clips, the filmmaker—herself a graduate of 2020—gathers with friends to reflect on a year of anxiety, isolation, living with parents (again), and finding comfort in quarantine pets and plants.

Lizzy Cornfeld is a filmmaker from Washington, DC. She completed her B.A. in Film with a concentration in cinematography and Sociology. She has worked for many years as a photographer and videographer, and she is currently working on a documentary based in New York.