Dartmouth alumni bring their recent work in film back to Hanover

  • Eddie Murphy appears in a scene from "Dolemite Is My Name." Michelle Brattson Majors, a 1996 graduate of Dartmouth College was the film's production manager. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Alexa Demie in Waves (A24/TNS)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2019 5:00:26 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 5:00:15 PM

In the new Netflix movie, Dolemite Is My Name, inspiration strikes the young black comedian Rudy Ray Moore, played by Eddie Murphy, while he’s watching a movie in the theater. It’s not that the film sparks his imagination. Quite the opposite. It bores him, and his failure to connect with its all-white cast and brand of humor sends him on a long and arduous quest to make a movie that breaks the mold and resonates with his demographic.

Already self-referential, this movie about a movie will acquire additional layers of meaning when it plays next weekend at Dartmouth College’s Loew Auditorium as part of a film and media alumni fest.

Among the goals of the event, which will bring together Dartmouth alumni working in a variety of film-related fields, is showcasing work that defies formula and broadens the range of narratives in popular culture and serves as inspiration for others to do the same.

“We’re really excited about the range of conversations we can have over the course of the weekend,” said Johanna Evans, film programming and operations manager for the Hop Film Office. “We have a whole range of different career paths represented.”

The event will feature screenings of three films, presented by alumni who worked on them in some capacity, along with two storytelling roundtables attended by alumni working in production, technology, music and other aspects of the film industry.

Dolemite Is My Name, playing on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m. will be presented by Michelle Brattson Majors, a 1996 Dartmouth graduate who works as a production manager for Netflix and has previously worked on hit movies including Star Trek Into Darkness, Neighbors and Interstellar.

“This film is kind of a meta choice,” Evans said. “How does race play into trying to get a film made?”

Along wi th important social issues, the film also illustrates one of the most important trends affecting the industry, Evans said. In a post-film discussion, Majors will talk about “how Netflix is changing the game behind the scenes,” she said. “It’s changing not just how we view films but how films are made.”

Ironically, the screening will provide a rare chance to see the film on a big screen. As a Netflix original movie, it had a short theatrical run in select theaters last month before landing at the streaming site Oct. 25. “Comedies are always better in the theater with a live audience,” Evans said. “We expect it to be a crowd pleaser.”

On Friday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m., audiences can catch Waves just as it’s coming to theaters. The film tells the story of a young athlete who sustains an injury that has a ripple effect on his upwardly mobile black family. “It sends him into this downward spiral that ends up affecting the whole family,” Evans said.

Mac Simonson, a 2016 graduate who now works at A24, an independent film company known for taking risks on unconventional fare, will present the film and lead a post-screening discussion.

And on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 4 p.m., Alix Madrigan, a 1984 graduate and independent film producer best known for the Academy-Award-nominated Winter’s Bone, will present her newest film, 1982, which tells the story of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy. The movie isn’t showing in the United States aside from this event.

“(Madrigan) is very generous with her time and with her advice for students who are interested in the film industry,” Evans said. “That’s one of our goals is to give young filmmakers in the area the chance to see these people face to face.”

Other alumni coming to the event include Barry Cole, a 1993 graduate who works as a music supervisor for Spot Music, which has made music for major films including All the Pretty Horses and Marley; Noah Tsika, a 2005 graduate who works as a media critic and historian for CUNY Queens College and specializes in how race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and nationality are represented in media; Allie Young, a 2013 graduate who works for the nonprofit organization Harness as a representative of the Native American community; and Julie Dunfey, a 1980 graduate and producer at Florentine Films, where she has co-produced documentaries with Ken Burns, including The Civil War, National Parks and Country Music.

Tickets to the movie screenings are $10 each. The alumni storytelling roundtable sessions, held on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 10 a.m. and noon, are free and open to the public. A free student film screening, featuring the final projects from students in Dartmouth’s documentary videomaking class, will kick off the alumni weekend on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu/events.

Gender and inequality

Inequality isn’t just a product of our economic and political systems: It’s baked into our cultural values. That’s what filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom sets out to prove in her new film The Great American Lie. Screening on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Engine Room in White River Junction and sponsored by WISE, the film focuses on gender as a key factor in economic immobility and social inequality.

Told through the eyes of five main subjects wrestling with various forms of inequality, the movie demonstrates how gender stereotypes and America’s preference for “masculine” traits such as independence and power over “feminine” traits such as empathy and collaboration hold women back.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and refreshments will be provided.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com or 603-727-3268.




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