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UMass Boston series screens international documentaries

Choosing movies for the Spring 2014 UMass Boston Film Series (UMBFS) is a labor of love for UMB adjunct professor Chico Colvard, who turned his own dysfunctional family history into a much-honored 2010 documentary. This monthly series, launched in September 2012 by the Chancellor’s Office, showcases works by thought-provoking international filmmakers. The series is free and open to the public.

Unlike the raunchy comedies and action flicks some undergrads might favor, the film series spotlights emerging directors of acclaimed documentaries that have obtained recognition for their progressive cultural themes. Indie auteurs join curator Colvard, UMass Boston faculty, film industry insiders, and local organizations for post-screening panel discussions.

Colvard, who graduated from UMass in 1997 with a BA in Philosophy and Political Science, didn’t plan to become an award-winning documentary filmmaker — just as he never planned to shoot one of his sisters in the leg, an accident which led Colvard at age 10 to discover that his father had been sexually abusing his three sisters for years. Using home video he eventually created in “Family Affair,” which focuses on the forgiveness strategies incest survivors use to maintain some semblance of family.           

“Family Affair” was the first documentary that Oprah Winfrey acquired for her OWN network. In 1997, Colvard won the John F. Kennedy Award, UMass Boston’s highest undergraduate award. Boston Globe hailed the film as “one of the most psychologically complex movies ever made about either racial identity or abuse of any kind.”

The film series runs alternate Thursdays at 7p.m. in the third floor ballroom of the Campus Center. The six-film Spring 2014 series kicks off on February 13 with Suzan Beraza’s “Uranium Drive-In” which explores the proposal to build a uranium mill in southwestern Colorado—the first in the U.S. in 30 years—and the emotional debate pitting a population desperate for jobs and financial stability against an environmental group based in nearby a resort town.

On February 27, in “Southern Comfort,” filmmaker Kate Davis tracks the final year in the life of Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual, dying of ovarian cancer and a group of other transgendered Southerners in this truly touching documentary.

On March 13, Danish filmmaker Kaspar Astrup Schröder will answer questions about his feature-film-like documentary “Rent a Family, Inc.,” which exposes the cold family relations of contemporary Japanese society, by exploring a company that hires out people to impersonate estranged relatives at weddings or friends at parties.

“And Who Taught You to Drive?” rides along with a German in India, an American in Japan, and a South Korean in Germany as they all struggle to learn the new-normal rules of the road in their efforts to get local driver’s license. Screened on March 27, Andrea Thiele’s cultural comedy suggests that it’s difficult but fun to be different from one other.

On April 10 with “O’er the Land,” Chicago-based filmmaker Stratman crisscrosses the nation as she interacts with Mexican border guards, Revolutionary War re-enactors, gun-toting families, football teams, and finally a military jet pilot who lived through a 45-minute, hurricane-buffeted parachute descent from his plane.

The series will end on April 24 with a screening of a not-yet-chosen Boston premiere as part of the Boston Independent Film Festival. For synopses, trailers, directors’ bios, and screening times go to umb.edu/filmseries.