From the Sex Industry to Religious Ritual: A Weekend of Social Documentary Films at SVA

September 24, 2015

The MFA Social Documentary Film department presents a weekend of thesis screenings, September 25 – 27, at the SVA Theater, 333 West 23rd Street. Q&As will follow each screening, and there will be a reception from 8:30 – 10:30pm on Saturday. Here’s a quick guide to all the films.


7:00pm: Sister Jolin (directed Siyan Liu and Danni Wang): In the bustling city of Dongguan—a manufacturing hub and the sex capital of China—Jolin, finds work as a soft-core-porn model. A former factory girl, she undergoes risky plastic surgery to look more “sexy” in hopes of escaping the sex industry and becoming a famous actress.

8:30pm: Pele, My Paradise (directed by Antonella Carrasco Zuffi): Pele is a remote island in the middle of the Pacific, where time seems to have been suspended; the people appear to lead happy and uncomplicated lives, and the view of nature as something sacred is a way of life. But when Pele is devastated by natural disaster, their landscape, and traditions, are destroyed.


3pm: Man with a Microphone (directed by James Spiro): Filmmaker James Spiro follows up-and-coming stand-up comedian Ben Rosen around the country. While Ben tries to succeed in his profession, and James tries to find his feet in the film world, both men enter a journey towards reaching their own personal creative goals.

5:00pm: Tide to Stone (directed by David Hoon Newman): Tide to Stone chronicles the lives and dreams of the residents of Bureh Beach, a small fishing village in Sierra Leone.

7:00pm: Sisters (directed by Paola Ochoa): Through chatting and gossip, four Colombian sisters in their 50s reveal their deepest secrets about love, relationships, sex, men and self-esteem.


3:00pm: Water Ghost (directed by Wen Li): After witnessing a suicide in Southern China’s Yuanjiang River, the filmmaker seeks out the men who fish these bodies out for a living. One of them, Cheng, shares sad, lurid and sometimes-funny stories about those he has dragged out of the river. This leads the filmmaker to unsettling memories in her own family, and helps her face her own fears of death and loss.

4:00pm: The Creek of Mine (directed by Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan): A look at the decline of the coal industry in Buffalo Creek, West Virginia as seen through the lives of a hair stylist, Vivian Bowen, and a manicurist, Shanna Grimmett. If layoffs continue in the small town, Vivian will never fulfill her dream of building a teenage center.

6:30pm: Marina’s Pearl (directed by Daniela Alatorre): Marina and her granddaughter Perla join 3,000 women on an annual pilgrimage to Atotonilco in central Mexico. The stages of the religious ritual mirror Perla’s coming of age and the clash of values and identities she has with her grandmother as she struggles to assert her independence as a woman.

For more info about the MFA Social Documentary thesis showcase, click here.

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