Filmmakers Reveal Their Secrets in “Strange Truth”

The year’s rendition of the Hurford Center’s ongoing Strange Truth Series invites filmmakers to campus who explore non-fiction imagination in their work.

What could be better than sitting down and watching a good movie? Speaking to the filmmaker right after! Since 2009, the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities (HCAH) and VCAM have hosted “Strange Truth,” an annual series that brings the Haverford community together through film screenings and discussions of new and unique non-fiction films, most of which include a member of the film’s directing or producing team. 

In 2015, the HCAH began a partnership with the Bryn Mawr Film Institute that allowed them to screen films in the Institute’s theater. In 2017, the VCAM building opened with a cinema space to allow the program to host community screenings on campus there. This year, Strange Truth is continuing to expand its reach, with screenings scheduled in Philadelphia. 

“Strange Truth always seeks to present new non-fiction films, films with attitude and formal weirdness, to the community and beyond,” said Assistant Professor of Visual Studies and Director of VCAM John Muse. “And this year, we are collaborating with the Lightbox Film Center at UArts in Center City, connecting Haverford to a prestigious art school in Philadelphia.”

Strange Truth 2022-23 has hosted two film events thus far. Sisters With Transistors was shown in the VCAM Cinema on Oct. 19. Written and directed by Lisa Rovner, the film tells the previously untold stories of female pioneers in the innovation and popularization of electronic music. 

After the screening, attendees got to hear from a composer featured in the film, Sarah Davachi, who spoke about her work via Zoom with Visiting Assistant Professor of Visual Studies and Digital Media Fellow Matt O’Hare. 

“I thought Sarah Davachi would be an excellent person to introduce to the Haverford community because she brings together an adventurous and innovative spirit of music-making with traditional techniques and instruments,” said O’Hare. “Sarah shows us how art can be a science and vice versa. As a teacher at a liberal arts institution, I think it’s important to see examples of artists who take great care in their craft and yet aren’t afraid to reach back into the distant past to find something new and vital.”

“I guess the biggest surprise for me is how someone capable of such sublime beauty can also be so grounded and approachable,” said O’Hare. “It was super easy to talk to her, and I think everyone in the audience was pretty charmed by her breezy attitude. She’s like ‘Yeah, I just make this spell-binding, enchanting music. It’s cool.’”

The next event of the series was organized by HCAH Program Manager Kelly Jung in collaboration with the Korean Culture Club (KCC), the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities’ fall 2022 Club in Residence at VCAM. On Oct. 25th, they hosted a screening of director So Yun Um’s Liquor Store Dreams, a documentary about two Korean American children of liquor store owners grappling with generational divides between themselves and their immigrant parents in Los Angeles. Um’s film was also part of this summer’s DocuLab/Asian American Documentary Network fellowship.

“Asian American identity is not discussed often enough in comparison to other minority groups,” said Heewon Yang ‘25, one of the co-heads of the Korean Culture Club. “There are serious prejudices and stereotypes we face, but it’s daunting to be the voice of our struggles. That’s why I think it was so important for KCC to bring Director So to Haverford. Through her film, Liquor Store Dreams, So voiced the intergenerational divides and racial tensions we experience as Asian Americans. Her strong character and powerful message also gave me courage, and I hope it encouraged other students at Haverford as well.” 

The following day, KCC and So Yun Um conducted another event at VCAM called “So, Let’s Talk About It: Asian American Identity + Middle Ground.” Open to the general Haverford community, they led a Jubilee Spectrum activity to introduce discussions about Asian American stereotypes, identity, history, and social justice. 

On December 5, Strange Truth will continue with a showing of The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (2016) at 7:30pm in the Lightbox Film Center at the University of the Arts. Following the film, director Brett Story will host a conversation with Robert Saleem Holbrook, the executive director of the Abolitionist Law Center. This event is also part of the Hurford Center’s Imagining Abolitionist Futures series, which strives to explore the role of the arts and humanities in the struggle for prison abolition and alternative reparative practices. Those interested can reserve tickets here

Strange Truth will host two more events in 2023. On March 29th, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute (BMFI) will host a screening of Candyman (2021) followed by an in-person conversation with composer Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe moderated by Professor O’Hare. Then on April 12th, BMFI will show Viaje a alguna parte (Journey to Somewhere) (2021). Writer and Director Helena de Llanos will attend in person for a conversation moderated by Bryn Mawr College Associate Professor of Spanish Martín Gaspar, with an introduction by Haverford College Assistant Professor of Spanish Lina Martínez Hernández.