Skip navigation

Writers Conference Film Festival

2018 Writers Conference Film Festival Schedule

All events are free and open to the public.

Although the UND Writers Conference has included a "Film Festival" since at least 1998, how the films were selected, and why, hasn't always been clear. Each year, we ask participating authors to select a film that they think speaks to the Conference's theme, that has influenced their work in some way, and/or that they want those in attendance to see. When possible, we will provide an answer to this long-standing question, along with a synopsis of the film (coming soon)

Wednesday, March 21
5:30 pm Film: Film: Black Snake Killaz: A #NoDAPL Story (Unicorn Riot, 120 min)
Lecture Bowl 
Thursday, March 22
1:30 pm Film: McCabe and Mrs. Miller , (Dir. Robert Altman, 1971, 121 minutes), selected by Marlon James
Lecture Bowl
Friday, March 23
2:00 pm Film: Still Tomorrow (Dir. Jian Fan, 2016, 87 min.) selected by Ocean Vuong
Lecture Bowl
5:45 pm Film:  Spotlight (Dir. Tom McCarthy, 2015, 128 min.) selected by Lauren Markhamt
Lecture Bowl

How were these films selected?

Black Snake Killaz

black snake killaz posterBlack Snake Killaz is a feature-length documentary film about the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. This film explores actions taken by water protectors to stop the construction of the oil pipeline. The documentary also highlights the actions taken by law enforcement, military, and corporate mercenaries to quell the months-long protest. Black Snake Killaz timelines the historical events that took place throughout 2016 and tells the story of how it all went down. Watch the trailer.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Dir. Richard Altman, 1971, 120 min.) selected by Marlon James

When asked for film selections, Marlon James chose three: Chinatown, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and Tangerine

McCabe & Mrs. Miller, directed by Richard Altman and released in 1971, was chosen of the three by the director of the UND Writers Conference, partially because Altman described it as an "'anti-western' because the film turns a number of Western conventions on their sides" and because it is set in the early 1900s, offering some semblance of a connection to the topics discussed on Wednesday.

Still Tomorrow (Dir. Jian Fan, 2016, 87 min.) selected by Ocean Vuong

Yu Xiuhua suffers from cerebral palsy and has spent her whole life on in her parents’ house on a rural farm in rural China married to a man that she does not love. The film follows her artistic path from poverty and obscurity to success, after her poems are shared on Chinese social media over one million times.  Although it seems like fame and money can improve the situation, Xiuhua realizes that she will never find the freedom she s eeks. She thrives as an artist and as a thinker, but certain social norms might keep her protest at bay and some of her emotional scars might never heal.

"This film feels so urgent for me because here, in Yu Xiuhua's journey, we see how poetry enacts an actual mode of liberation for a woman writing through poverty, disability, and the crippling silences of a patriarchal society. Through it all, the word becomes here way out, becomes her tool for which she fashions a way out through going in, into the minds and mouths of her readers. It is the effect and power in writing all writers hope for--and how vital to know, in these days of linguistic and physical vitriol, the word can still rescue us." ~Ocean Vuong

Spotlight (Dir. Tom McCarthy, 2015, 128 min.) selected by Lauren Markham

Tom McCarthy’s 2015 film, Spotlight, is a drama centered on the Boston Globe’s investigative journalism team’s efforts to prove that the Catholic Church went to extreme measures to cover up a sex scandal in Boston. The film takes place in 2001 as the team initially seeks to expose a priest that had been transferred several times following allegations of him sexually assaulting under privileged children. They soon learn that the scandal could involve eight-seven priests in the community. Spotlight explores how a community’s trust was taken advantage of, thus making the truth even harder to accept and to uncover. The film won two Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The investigative reporting won The Boston Globe a Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.

The film was selected by Lauren Markham, who when asked to select films that impacted her work or related to the topic said, simply, "Spotlight, of course." She continued: "At a time when the integrity of journalism, and of the very meanings of truth and fact, are under assault, it's important to reflect on the value of journalism as a tool for social justice and for holding systems accountable. There are many far more nuanced films about truth and how we reckon with injustice that I could have picked (and perhaps that would have made for more nuanced discussions), but it seemed somehow fitting to pick a big, blockbuster, on-the-nose film about the a valorous role that journalism has played in recent history--and the ways, too, that it failed."