Academic Highlights


Ford Foundation awards Grant to Faculty Members Wilson and Crowder-Taraborrelli

Aliso Viejo, CA – Soka University proudly announces that Kristi M. Wilson, Ph.D. and Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli, Ph.D, were awarded a Ford Foundation grant in support of the 24th Visible Evidence documentary film conference which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The JustFilms office of the Ford Foundation supports projects that aim to reduce inequality in the arenas of visual storytelling, film and media projects.

Co-organizers of the August 2 – 6, 2017 conference, Drs. Wilson and Crowder-Taraborrelli, credited the Ford Foundation for its support of the event as well as for making it possible for many scholars to participate. “A portion of the grant was used to fund a series of travel grants to enable Latin American scholars to attend the conference, as well as for simultaneous translation services for select presentations,” Dr. Wilson said. Soka University also supported the conference as did the Universidad Nacional de Tres Febrero, University of Southern California, the Alliance Francaise, The French embassy of Argentina, Asociación Argentina de Estudios sobre Cine y Audiovisual (AsAECA) and numerous film organizations.

In addition to the importance of scholarly consideration of the field of documentary filmmaking, the timing of the conference was significant in terms of historical events. Visible Evidence Buenos Aires coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and the passage of 50 years since the assassination of Che Guevara in Bolivia. Conference literature recognized the two anniversaries, designating them as “transcendental events that compel us to contemplate anew the relationship between documentary film and revolutionary movements.” 

In the field of documentary film and politics, Latin American countries were a hub of energetic debate about the role of film as a tool for social change since the 1960s. “Latin American filmmakers have been crucial participants in the denunciation of human rights abuses,” Dr. Wilson said. While filmmakers brazenly carried on their activist work, the risks were great for them. “Many filmmakers went into exile or were disappeared and killed during the military dictatorships,” Dr. Wilson added. The conference engaged with the innovations of those pioneers and their impact on young filmmakers of today.

Dr. Crowder-Taraborrelli’s connection with activism and film has both an academic and a personal component. Having grown up in Argentina, he was in high school during the transition between the last dictatorship and Argentina’s return to democracy. His activism as a student impacted his path in higher education and his academic work. “That experience has been part of my ongoing commitment to the documentation of human rights abuses,” he said. For Dr. Crowder-Taraborrelli, working with the Visible Evidence organization is a natural extension of those interests and experiences.

Despite historical threats and dangers, the art form has not backed down even as new issues have arisen. “There has been increased interest in documentary film over the last two decades in Argentina,” said Dr. Crowder-Taraborrelli. As governments throughout the continent became patrons by increasing their funding for documentary films, academicians increased their voices and concerns, weighing in about the role of the state as art patrons. The organizers and attendees recognized the Visible Evidence conference as a timely opportunity to examine the relationship between documentary film and national cinemas, as well as the goals and trends of state-funded cinema in relation to transnational cinema. “In this new millennium,” Dr. Wilson said, “one sees a fruitful discussion about the efficacy of documentation, understood within the historiography of human rights abuses, indigenous rights and genocide.”

Dozens of films from across the globe were screened during the five-day conference. Prominent documentary filmmakers included: Luis Ospina, Susana Barriga, Jean-Paul Fargier, and acclaimed film theorist and filmmaker, Thomas Elsaesser. They screened their work and presented keynote addresses. Film theorists including Michael Renov, Michael Chanan and María Luisa Ortega Galvez participated in discussions on community and political engagement, film and new media, memory and documentary and other topics.  

With some 350 scholars from 35 countries participating, this global event was first proposed three years ago at the Visible Evidence Conference in New Delhi, India. In light of the reputation of Latin American documentary filmmaking, participants in New Delhi were enthusiastic about convening a future conference in Argentina. “Tomas and I got the ball rolling with Clara Garavelli, from the UK, and Javier Campo and Pablo Piedras from Argentina,” Dr. Wilson said, “and the five of us have been planning and working ever since.”