BIMD Facing Illness and Death

This course combines the study of narrative with the creation of documentary portraits for the purpose of recognizing the value of trust in building ethical relationships.  To that end, students will immerse themselves in the documentary production process, pairing audio recording and interviewing in the tradition of National Public Radio and "This American Life" with digital photography, to create original documentary work.  For the subjects of these portraits, students will seek out individuals in the midst of real-life situations where their health is directly impaired.  In order for these portraits to be meaningful, students must earn their subjects' trust.  Earning this trust requires honoring the stories their subjects share with them.  Students will, then, explore the narrative dimensions of personal illness stories in literature, memoirs, and documentaries to be used as points of reference during the development of their portraits.  Students will also learn the techniques of framing, lighting, and composition, as they relate to the visual production process, and how to gather professional audio and conduct high-quality interviews.

This course will be team-taught by two filmmakers, Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert, and Professor Michael Blackie.  Steve Bognar's films have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and at numerous other festivals in the United States and abroad.  Julia Reichert's work has earned two Academy Award nominations for Best Feature Documentary.  Together, Bognar and Reichert produced the award-winning feature documentary, A Lion in the House, which spanned six years in the lives of five families who each had a child fighting cancer.

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