Film Festival

Salma Abushi | Mashaal Awan | Tessa Cone | Beatrice Ieronimo | Eva McLaughlin | Scherrie Newton | Tasnim Rushdan | Renata Taylor-Smith

Salma Abushi, Global Studies
Zareen Taj, Global Studies

As a Global Studies major, the search for avenues of social activism is essential to pursuing aspirations and goals for change in the human condition. This documentary comes from the history of my family and that of so many others of Palestinian descent. This short film was produced as a project for the Documentary Film as Activism seminar (GLBL 409). My goal in creating this project was to educate and raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians, so many of whom lack mobility of every kind. And, as my Grandmother narrates, once out it is almost impossible to return to Palestine as a Palestinian, the notion of which is so often denied. The process of making the film made me feel more passionate about the subject and more inclined to share the day-to-day adversities faced by Palestinians. At this time, more than ever, it is crucial to acknowledge the abject deterioration of the Palestinian condition. The elements of the film include a brief historical context of the contested land, a look at its beauty, and a first-hand account of its heartbreak.

What Makes Life Worth Living: The Palestinian Condition

Mashaal Awan, Global Studies, Meghna Chandrasekaran, Manav Vaishnav, Shawn Abraham
Zareen Taj, Global Studies

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is a recognized Minority Serving Institution. It is home to a beautiful campus and a diversity of cultures. South Asian culture is one of the most prevalent of these, bringing together students from up to 9 nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. They practice their culture on this campus through participation in student organizations, cultural events, and even simple conversations. Utilizing advanced filmmaking techniques, our team produced a documentary to showcase the richness of South Asian culture at UMBC. Our comprehensive approach involved conducting both long and short interviews with members of the South Asian community. We highlighted daily life and vibrant celebrations throughout the Fall 2023 semester. These events included Hindu Student Council (HSC)’s Diwali and Pakistani Student Association’s Mehndi Ki Raat. Through this in depth qualitative research, we aim to tell a story about UMBC, the members of its South Asian community, and how they ultimately explore their own identities through interacting with culture.

Celebrating South Asian Culture at UMBC

Tessa Cone, Social Work
Lisa Vetter, Political Science; Jayshree Jani, UMBC, Department of Social Work

In a country where bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom are no longer guaranteed, social workers have a responsibility to understand the current political climate and legislation, educate themselves and others on safe sex practices, and advocate for increased services and resources for pregnant people. Through a variety of qualitative and quantitative research, including first hand experiences, this research will guide social workers as they continue to provide support to pregnant people who have unwanted pregnancies in the post Roe era.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

The Politics of Unwanted Pregnancy: A Social Work Perspective

Beatrice Ieronimo, Psychology
Gail Prensky, The Jüdische Kulturbund Project

As transgender Italians seek medical care to affirm their gender identities, financial, political, and cultural barriers make this care inaccessible to the general public, often requiring trans Italians to go to lengths to receive life-saving treatment. To raise awareness of the struggle for and importance of gender-affirming care in Italy, this project detailed the story of Elio Aga Rossi, an Italian artist who self-funded his gender transition by selling t-shirts printed with his artwork. Through a series of interviews compiled into a documentary film, this project delved into Aga Rossi’s path to self-discovery, focusing on how he came to terms with his transgender identity and how he used art to actualize this identity in the face of extreme oppression. The story that emerged is one of trans resilience, showcasing art as a form of resistance to the limits that Italian bureaucracy and society place on trans people. Though set in Italy, Aga Rossi’s struggle to attain gender-affirming care is a struggle shared by trans people all around the world. This project aimed to motivate viewers to embrace and support worldwide transgender efforts to receive necessary medical care.

With Love, Elio: An Artist’s Path To Happiness

Eva McLaughlin, Dance
Ann Sofie Clemmensen, Dance

Through the medium of dance, this research sought to investigate and bring awareness to the neurological condition known as Misophonia. The research specifically addresses how to employ choreographic tools in the creation of a dance to effectively immerse the audience into the lived experience of an individual with Misophonia in order to expose its damaging effects on a person’s daily life. Misophonia, or “select sound sensitivity syndrome” is characterized by a strong aversion to specific sounds, including but not limited to chewing, breathing, pen clicking, and many other noises specific to the individual. Exposure to these noises can induce anxiety, distress, and anger, as well as intense physiological symptoms. With this disorder emerging as a recent discovery, research is limited, and it is generally unclear whether it can be characterized as being caused by auditory, psychiatric, or neurological factors. Through survey results collected from over 60 individuals with Misophonia, personal experiences as someone with the condition, and extensive choreographic exploration, a final work of choreography was created, using experimental sound, lighting, and movement choices to highlight the motivation and purpose of the work.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

Misophonia through the Choreographic Lens: Visualizing Complex Fight or Flight Responses

Scherrie Newton, Africana Studies
Bill Shewbridge, Media and Communication Studies

This documentary thoughtfully tells the story of two sisters who were highly influential in the fight for reproductive justice in the United States in the 1970s. Through extensive research and a compelling interview, including Dr. Tammy Henderson about eugenics, it highlights the appalling story of Mary Alice and Minnie Lee Relf, who were forced to get sterilized by a government-funded clinic without their permission or their parent’s knowledge. Their brave stand against this wrong caused the important court case Relf v. Weinberger, which fought against unfair practices that hurt disadvantaged groups. Showcasing how strong the sisters were in the face of hardship, demonstrating how race, gender, and reproductive rights all affect each other. Not only does it celebrate the Relf sisters’ lasting heritage, but it also stands as a strong reminder of the ongoing fight for freedom and equality in reproductive health care.

A Legacy Of Courage: Minnie Lee and Mary Alice Relf

Tasnim Rushdan, Global Studies
Zareen Taj, Global Studies

In an era of expanding inclusivity, the traditional notions of special education are undergoing a seismic shift. People with disabilities are not merely support recipients; they are trailblazers, redefining themselves as valuable contributors to the workforce and taking a stand for their rights. Individuals once marginalized are seizing opportunities to showcase their talents, skills, and unique perspectives. Challenging stereotypes fosters empowerment and propels us all toward a more equitable future.

The documentary includes interviews with special education teachers about initiatives that challenge what it means to be a student with a disability and about their own experiences within the school systems. They reveal the complex challenges within the educational ecosystem, from classroom struggles to policy barriers. The documentary also challenges the effectiveness of special education programs and uncovers the challenges that come along with that label. The documentary highlights the profound impact of educators and students, who urge action to address systemic inequities. It calls for recognition and respect for teachers’ invaluable educational contributions, envisioning a future where their dedication is honored with dignity.

Redefining What it Means to be a Special Education Student

Renata Taylor-Smith, Theatre
Adam Mendelson, Theatre

What actually happens behind the scenes of a stage production? How does doing a theatre project across language barriers and borders differ from doing one with an all-American cast and crew? This audiovisual essay, entitled The Amish Project, the Making Of, will explore the behind the scenes for lighting a theatre show and follow my experience as Associate Lighting Designer for Jessica Dickey’s The Amish Project, which is a fictional exploration of the 2006 Nickle Mines schoolhouse shooting in a Pennsylvania Amish community. The ensemble based theatre piece is powerful and timely especially since in 2019 Amnesty International and a few foreign governments issued travel advisory warnings to those traveling to the United States because of high rates of gun violence. This theatre piece debuted in Munich, Germany, in collaboration with the Munich Film Akademie and UMBC’s Theatre Department. This presentation includes show footage, interviews with the show’s director and creative team, and a recording of the light board operator calling the show.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

The Amish Project, Making of