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Writers Conference Film Festival

2019 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 20
1:30 pm Film:  LA 92 (Dir. Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin, 114 min.)   selected by Patrick Martinez 
UND Memorial Union, 2nd Floor,Lecture Bowl
5:30 pm Film: Little Women (Dir. Armstrong, 1994, 115 min) selected by Sarah Smarsh
UND Memorial Union, 2nd Floor, Lecture Bowl
Thursday, March 21
1:30 pm Film: Blood Memory: A Story of Removal and Return (Dir. Nicholas, 2019) along with post-film discussion with producer Elizabeth Day. Film selected by Heid E. Erdrich. 
UND Memorial Union, 2nd Floor, Lecture Bowl
Friday, March 22
2:00 pm Film:  Shanghai Express (Dir. von Sternberg, 1932, 80 min) selected by Sally Wen Mao
UND Memorial Union, 2nd Floor, Lecture Bowl 
5:30 pm Film: Love and Basketball
UND Memorial Union, 2nd Floor, Lecture Bowl

How were these films selected?

LA 92 (Dirs. Lindsay and Martin, 114 min.) selected by Patrick Martinez

When asked to chose a film to present at the UND Writers Conference, Patrick Martinez said LA 92 is important to watch as it “grapples with this idea of what the future holds” and it “definitely informs and relates to [his] work and where [he] is from.” One need only look at his Pee-Chee folders art series, which draws on the police brutality and the repercussions of it: the riots or protests, depending on who you ask, in 1992 Los Angeles. After the acquittal of the four police officers who attacked and beat Rodney King – an incident captured on video - the people decided enough was enough Over a six-day period, widespread violence and arson ravaged LA County, leaving 63 people dead, 2,383 people injured, and resulting in more than 12,000 arrested in addition to over $1 billion in property damage. With previously unseen footage, this National Geographic documentary freshly recounts the events that sparked this period of civil unrest in 1992. What proceeds is an explicit look at a dark past, but as difficult as it is to observe, it is important to witness. Along these lines, Patrick Martinez notes, the film opens with a quotation by Frederick Douglass: “We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.”

Little Women  (Dir. Armstrong, 1994, 115 min) selected by Sarah Smarsh

When Sarah Smarsh sat down for an interview with The University Daily Kansan , she said that one of the things that made her want to be a writer was Little Women, especially the more literary character of the bunch, Jo March. And from her memoir Heartland, it is easy to see why. The March family exemplifies that unbreakable familial bond that Midwestern families seem to exemplify most plainly. Whether alone out there in the world or together, whether times be difficult or jubilant, the March family’s love for its members reaches not only to every sibling in the family, but also to those characters who find the closeness, tenderness, and care of the March family not only desirable, but an ideal; a family bond that no force on earth could break. In this 1994 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, the March family confronts what is all too common in the household today; family tragedy, financial crisis, the pains of entering adulthood, interfamilial tensions, and the tumultuous endeavors of romantic partnership.

Blood Memory: A Story of Removal and Return  (Dir. Nicholas, 2019) selected by Heid E. Erdrich

We are lucky enough to be able to present this documentary before it has been screened widely. That said, we also haven't seen it! However, you can learn more about the film on the production website, as well as ask questions of Elizabeth Day, one of the producers, who will be here as part of a question and answer period following the screening.

Shanghai Express (Dir. von Sternberg, 1932, 80 min) selected by Sally Wen Mao

Sally Wen Mao details in her connection to Anna May Wong in her non-fiction essay, "Two Worlds, One Dress: On The Chinese-American Qipao." In an attempt to understand more genuinely the culture from which she descended, Anna May Wong, the first internationally acclaimed Asian-American actress, visited Shanghai, China only to discover that her interpretation of Chinese culture and the reality of it differed greatly. Upon this discovery, she decided to change her public image permanently. She went from agreeing to non-Chinese roles to only taking on those sympathetic and accurate to Chinese culture. This was, to say the least, a risky move in the late 1930s when racism was alive and well not only in Hollywood, but also in America as a whole.

Identity, free-agency, connection to one’s culture--while the narrative of Shanghai Express does not deal with these topics directly, it certainly opens up a space for us to explore them to their fullest. Set amid the depths of civil war in 1931 China, the Express train from Peking to Shanghai carries on it: British captain Donald Harvey, who stumbles upon old romantic flame now turned courtesan, Magdalene “Shanghai Lily,” and her companion Hui Fei (played by Anna May Wong). But as the old lovers become reacquainted, they fail to notice the identity of their fellow traveler, Henry Chang, spy and rebel leader. As things go from post-mortem relationship analysis to militaristic train takeover, only one thing is for certain, what we see is certainly not the whole picture.

Love and Basketball (Dir. Prince-Bythewood, 2000, 124 min.) selected by Kiese Laymon

When asked which movie he would like to present at the UND Writers Conference, Kiese Laymon said "Right this second, I'd go with Middle of Nowhere by Ava DuVernay and Love and Basketball. They're really different movies but I love the way they don't rely on either of their main characters being perfect or perfectly tortured. Both films are anchored in the messy possibilities of Black American love and the awkward choreography of Black American desire."

Neighbors since childhood, Monica and Quincy share not only a love for basketball, but also share the dream of playing at a professional level. But when love for the game is intertwined with love for the other, it is difficult to tell which path to choose. From childhood, to high school, to college, and beyond we see the messiness of their love and the awkward choreography of Monica and Quincy’s desires as they work toward achieving their dreams. Can romantic love and love of basketball coincide and make peace in their lives? Or will one outweigh the other?