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Documentary Film Series Opens

Published: February 1, 2016

“Quandaries,” a documentary film series funded by a Visiting Fellows grant from the CSU Entertainment Industry Initiative, opens at CSULB with “Frame by Frame” co-directed by Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli. The film will screen in the University Student Union’s Beach Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 10 a.m., followed by a Q&A with Bombach. Admission is free and the event is open the public.

Featuring three award-winning documentary feature films and post-screening discussions with the directors, “Quandaries” explores excellence in storytelling, gray areas between what is ethical versus legal, as well as the differences between documentary filmmaking and traditional journalism, explained series organizer Helen Hood Scheer, an assistant professor in CSULB’s Department of Film and Electronic Arts.

“Frame by Frame” is about four Afghan photojournalists as they face the realities of building a free press in a country left to stand on its own after decades of war and an oppressive Taliban regime, reframing Afghanistan for the world and for themselves.

“Frame by Frame,” which had its world premiere at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival, was a Top 10 Audience Favorite at Hotdocs, earned a Grierson Award nomination at the 2015 BFI London Film Festival and has screened at dozens of festivals worldwide––picking up several accolades along the way.

“American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs” (2013) will screen on Tuesday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the University Theater. Featuring a Q&A with director Grace Lee, the film was described by Scheer as “a beautiful story about identity and social justice, focusing on a truly unexpected, serene, and formidable main character.” Boggs is a 98-year-old Chinese-American woman in Detroit whose career as a writer, activist and philosopher were rooted for 70 years in the African-American movement.

Tentatively scheduled for late April or early May is the 2015 documentary “(T)error” followed by a Q&A with the film’s co-director Lyric Cabral. “(T)error” profiles Saeed “Shariff” Torres, a counterterrorism informant for more than two decades, who takes on what he swears is his last job for the FBI and invites filmmakers to follow his covert efforts to befriend a suspected jihadist—without informing his superiors.

“I want to stoke interest in documentaries, share the myriad of creative approaches that are now being explored and help grow the Department of Film and Electronic Arts’ Creative Nonfiction program,” said Scheer. “We want our students to be thinking about a wide array of options with nonfiction storytelling, from activism and advocacy to character studies and real artistry.”

Scheer wants audiences to walk out of each screening in the series feeling more appreciative of this complex world and more knowledgeable about both the art and practice of making documentaries.

Scheer encourages the campus and surrounding community to attend the series. “`Frame by Frame’ is a beautifully composed story that exposes audiences to a largely unknown world,” she said. “Under the Taliban, photography was forbidden—which has big consequences for identity, memory and the dissemination of knowledge. By following a compelling group of photojournalists, we learn a lot about the power of the image and a wounded nation’s efforts to heal. While the events captured are often tragic, the film and the filmmakers are extremely inspiring. The first time I saw this docmentary and heard the directors speak, I knew I would do whatever it took to bring them to CSULB. We’re very lucky to have one of the filmmakers joining us and I think the event will stay with the audience for a long time.”

For more information on the series’ opening film, “Frame by Frame,” visit

–Richard Manly