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DC/DOX Film Festival 2024

Reality Check Panel: Subject/Matter

Saturday, June 15
10:00 AM - 11:15 AM

Planet Word, Friedman Family Auditorium

925 13th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

Reality Check Panel: Subject/Matter

Mediha Ibrahim Alhamad, Film Participant, Mediha

Matt Moyer, Co-director, Inheritance

Hasan Oswald, Director, Mediha

Amy Toensing, Co-director, Inheritance

Lindsey Megrue, Co-director, One South: Portrait of a Psych Unit

Alexandra Shiva, Co-director, One South: Portrait of a Psych Unit

The documentary scholar Bill Nichols proposed three “commonsense assumptions” about what defines a documentary. He posited that documentaries are “about reality,” they are about “what really happened,” and they are about “real people.”

This third assumption – about real people – has remained largely uncontested for nearly as long as documentaries have existed. But in recent years, the impact on the real people whose stories and lives are depicted on screen has been a topic of much reconsideration. The dynamics between filmmakers and documentary participants, formerly known as “subjects,” are being thoughtfully examined. Questions around care and consent, authority and agency, and even compensation and credit are now entering the discourse.

How are filmmakers accountable to the participants who entrust their stories to their representation? How do filmmakers and participants negotiate authorship, and maybe even engage in collaboration in the storytelling process? This panel invites filmmakers from this year’s lineup, along with the participants whose stories they portray on screen, to explore these questions and engage in a conversation about trust, negotiation, and the ethical considerations that go into the process of making films “about real people.”

Film Participant, Mediha

In August 2014, when Mediha was only nine years old, she was kidnapped by ISIS and sold into sexual slavery. She now dedicates her life to sharing her film and the story of the Yazidi people with the world.

Co-director, Inheritance

Matt Moyer is a photographer and filmmaker dedicated to telling stories that raise awareness and work to improve our world. Matt covered 9/11 in NYC, and the Iraq war for The New York Times, and has photographed multiple feature stories for National Geographic magazine. As a National Geographic Explorer, Matt has photographed the looming water crisis in Egypt. He has directed short documentaries that have been featured by several outlets, including the National Geographic Society and PBS. Matt was named a Knight Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan in 2008 and also received a Knight Fellowship at Ohio University in 2012. He teaches regularly for National Geographic Photo Camps, an organization that teaches photography to underserved youth throughout the world. Matt also sits on the Board of Advisors for The Siena School, a school for students with language-based learning differences, headquartered in Washington, DC.

Director, Mediha

Since the start of his filmmaking career, Hasan Oswald has demonstrated an ability to capture the human experience through verité cinema. His unfettered access to and intimacy with his subjects creates a seamless veneer between the filmmaker and subject that heightens the immediacy and personal nature of his storytelling. He has covered the water crisis in Flint, Michigan (Forgotten USA), drug trafficking and homelessness in Camden, New Jersey (Higher Love), and the international diaspora of conflict refugees for National Geographic (Hell on Earth). His latest documentary, Mediha, follows a teenage Yazidi girl processing her trauma after being held captive by ISIS. Mediha won the Grand Jury Award and Audience Award (runner-up) at DOC NYC in 2023. Hasan was also named one of DOC NYC’s 40 under 40 documentary rising stars to watch, co-presented by HBO Documentary Films.

Co-director, Inheritance

Amy Toensing is a visual journalist committed to telling stories with sensitivity and depth. A regular contributor to National Geographic magazine for over twenty years, Toensing has photographed and reported on cultures and topics around the world, including indigenous communities and their connection to land, the impact of drought on communities in Australia, and land and social rights for women in Uganda and India. Her recent projects have centered around the human relationship to conservation efforts in the United States including a rewilding project in Montana and The Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Toensing has also co-directed two short documentary films, one about urban refugee children in Nairobi and the other on women’s land rights in Uganda. In 2018 Toensing was named the Mike Wallace Fellow in Investigative Reporting at the University of Michigan. She is currently a National Geographic Explorer and FUJIFILM Creator.

Co-director, One South: Portrait of a Psych Unit

Lindsey Megrue is a director and creative producer who strives to make documentary films that explore the pivotal issues shaping our world from an intimate and nuanced perspective. She has been working in film for nearly two decades. Her work has been shown theatrically on HBO, EPIX, MTV, and PBS, as well as on the websites of The New York Times and The New Yorker. She produced This is Home, a feature-length film about Syrian refugees resettling in Baltimore, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary. She was a Field Producer for the Emmy-nominated series Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies. She has also directed for the highly-rated PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Other films include Each and Every Day, Koch, and eight episodes of the award-winning series American Experience. Lindsey’s current project, One South: Portrait of a Psych Unit, will premiere on HBO in the summer of 2024. She is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Documentary Producers Alliance, a 2017 Impact Partners Producing Fellow, and a graduate of Smith College.

Co-director, One South: Portrait of a Psych Unit

Alexandra Shiva is an award-winning filmmaker known for crafting intimate character-driven cinema verité documentaries. Her previous film, Each and Every Day, about youth mental health, premiered on MTV in 2021. In 2018, Alexandra released This Is Home, a portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in Baltimore, Maryland, and struggling to find their footing. It won the Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and a Columbia-duPont award. She produced and directed How to Dance in Ohio, which follows a group of autistic teenagers preparing for an iconic American rite of passage — a Spring Formal. The Peabody Award-winning film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015 and aired on HBO to great critical acclaim. A musical adaptation of How to Dance in Ohio opened on Broadway in 2023. Alexandra’s other film credits include Stagedoor and her directorial debut, Bombay Eunuch. Her most recent project, One South: Portrait of a Psych Unit, is about an inpatient program specializing in treating college students and will premiere on HBO in the summer of 2024. Alexandra is an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science member and the Director’s Guild of America. She is a graduate of Vassar College.