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Fall 2022 Social Documentation Student and Alumni News

Four students relax and talk in the redwood forest.

This publicity photo for their thesis film screening shows the Social Documentation MFA class of 2022 (left to right): Chisato (Chisa) Hughes, Ruth Anne Beutler, Oana Tenter, and Lara Saab.  Photo by Mitra Ghaffari.

Congratulations, Class of 2022

Enormous congratulations to the four members of the 2022 Social Documentation MFA cohort, who have all premiered their beautiful, complex, and timely thesis projects in multiple venues including the Del Mar Theatre, Indexical, Sesnon Gallery, with more events to be announced.  They have passed their thesis defenses with distinction, and now receive their Masters of Fine Arts degrees:

Ruth Anne Beutler for LAND/TRUST

Chisato Hughes for Many Moons

Lara Saab for Spiraling, Not Twirling

Oana Tenter for Yesterday Ended Last Night

The films were screened with much fanfare at a special viewing at the Del Mar Theatre in Santa Cruz in November.  Class of 2021 alums joined in: Hoda Sobhani with Letters From Two Continents and Jordan Freeman, Sea State.  From the quality of the films, one would never guess the resilience this group showed in pursuit of their masters degrees.  Congratulations to this very special group.


More Student and Alumni News

Melanie Ho, SocDoc cohort of 2020, brings excellent news, having been selected to participate in The Gotham Film and Media Institute and HBO Documentary Films inaugural cohort and mentors for their Documentary Development Initiative.  The Documentary Development Initiative was designed to bolster storytellers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and/or storytellers with disabilities, by providing them with the resources necessary to develop thought-provoking, character-driven, contemporary ideas for documentary films and limited series.  In addition to one-on-one mentoring, each of the selected filmmakers will be given a $50,000 grant sponsored by HBO Documentary Films, OneFifty and WBD Access for research and creative development on new documentary projects, with select grantees to be presented with the opportunity to receive additional funding.  Ideas generated through this initiative will be offered to HBO on a first-look basis.  If this weren't enough, Ho's newest film, my mom (mẹ con) was also written up by the Center for Asian American Media.

Several members of the SocDoc community contributed to a PBS music special. The show featured Los Lobos in concert with two other bands celebrating Día de los Muertos and includes two short documentary vignettes about an internationally renowned, indigenous Oaxacan chef who runs a backyard restaurant in Seaside and commemorates Day of the Dead through food and family. Director of graduate studies Jennifer Maytorena Taylor directed, edited and produced the pieces with an all-star UCSC team including:

  • SocDoc alum/research fellow and current Kresge lecturer Brenda Avila-Hanna served as Producer
  • 2022 SocDoc MFA graduate Ruth Anne Beutler as Assistant Camera
  • FDM alums Alex Santana as Production Assistant and Megan Martinez Golz as Field Audio Recordist
  • SocDoc lecturer Mario Furloni served as Director of Photography

Amrit Kaur, a current student, wrote and directed a short narrative film, ZINDAGI DOBARA, an LGBTQ Drama. It had its world premiere in November at North America's largest South Asian film festival, The Tasveer South Asian Film Festival at SIFF Film Center in Seattle, WA.  ZINDAGI DOBARA won the Tasveer x Netflix Film Fund's LGBTQ Film Category in 2021 and screened online as well on TasveerTV.  With siblings, Amrit cofounded a production and consulting company called Brown Girl Joy Productions.

Janet Chen, current second-year student, had her short film, Women's Cut, screened live at the SF Short Film Festival.  It's a short personal piece that features her wife, and it strays away from Janet's usual vérité style with some experimental elements. 

Social Documentary alum Samuel Contreras started a position at Fresno State as a lecturer in Fresno, California.  He will be teaching the introductory courses for the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism and for the Department of Chicano and Latin American Studies.

Azad Azizyan and Ruebi Jimenez, both current students, have been nominated to participate in a new initiative for professional and creative development sponsored by the UCSC Arts Research Institute (ARI) in partnership with Strategic Planning Partners (SPP), the firm that developed the professional development program for Creative Capital.  Two PhD program students were also nominated. 

Mahshid Modares (SocDoc alum and current PhD student) saw her first film, Sanctions on the Sky and her second film, Sanctions on Us both accepted for Los Angeles LIFT-OFF Film Festival.

Benjamin J. Densieski, Social Documentary alum, will be teaching journalism at Nazareth College.