2021 Theme

Each year the MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute and MDOCS Forum convene non-fiction makers across medium around a central theme. These themes generate productive exchanges, throughout the disparate subject matter taken on by non-fiction makers, and encourage self-reflexive questioning of documentary practices. In 2015, the inaugural Institute explored FAMILY; subsequent themes have addressed what constitutes non-fiction with WALKING THE LINE BETWEEN FACT AND FICTION, delved into placemaking and de-colonization in documentary with SPACE AND PLACE, interrogated the shared and divergent practices linking documentary and surveillance in SURVEIL/SURVEILLED, and playfully subverted the association of documentary with tragedy through HUMOR: LAUGHING WITH REALITY. Last year our theme was CO-CO-CREATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS, which grappled with the fraught yet promising modalities of collaborative practice. This year, having weathered the months of dislocation during a global pandemic, yet nonetheless fortified amidst isolation by the joys of working with others, we build on last year’s theme with CO-CREATION: DELIGHTS, DISCONTENTS, & DISLOCATIONS.

CO-CREATION: DELIGHTS, DISCONTENTS & DISLOCATIONS

“so many of us have been trained into the delusion that we must accumulate excess, even at the cost of vast inequality, in order to view our lives as complete or successful.”― Adrienne Maree Brown, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good 

“Mutual aid is not done from the kindness of our hearts (though that helps), it is done because we respect people’s autonomous lives and want our communities to thrive​.” – Let’s Talk Mutual Aidea zine by Regan de Loggans

This is a call to all collaborators, collectives and co-creators of knowledge! To those coming from activism, community organizing, and collective power building. To those willing to transgress artistic boundaries and academic disciplines in the urgent name of shared agency and more inclusive institutions! 

MDOCS Forum and Storytellers’ Institute invite you to join us in June 2021 to think together about Co-Creation in the fields and many mediums of creative non-fiction. Building on last year’s theme and the new Mellon supported MDOCS Co-creation Initiative, we delve into both the pleasures and complications of collaboration, as well as asking how the pandemic has compelled the reevaluation and reinvention of co-creation. How are artists and storytellers retooling their collaborative strategies for social distancing? How are we using the virtual space in creative new ways to connect across vast distances and build an equitable digital future? And how has collaboration become newly imperative in order to survive in a time of plague, even though it has always been essential to sustaining and invigorating communities?

We are hardly alone in asking these questions. 

The New Negress Film Society shared via the Ford Foundation in New Negress Film Society on community models for filmmaking, “The future of film is community-centered. The future of film is participatory filmmaking made to serve those whose stories it seeks to reflect. And the future is here. It can be found in the past and present histories of art and media production in Black communities.” This collaborative and community-minded perspective is not unique to filmmaking, but rather encompasses all mediums and disciplines of creative non-fiction. Additionally, as cultural institutions continue to reckon with our legacies of inequitable allocation of resources, we would also be wise to listen to this call and simultaneously look towards the past and the future to build collaborations that share power instead of hoard power. 

The Ford Foundation-sponsored, collectively-authored Creative Futures: 40 Provocations to Reimagine Arts, Documentary, and Journalism “envision[s} new cooperative models of resource-sharing and community ownership—alternatives to existing structures governed by, and serving, a select few. More than ever these fields need interventions of elasticity and shared responsibility, the same principles powering today’s mutual aid networks, formed in response to COVID-19, and yesterday’s community trusts, developed to democratize farms and housing for BIPOC communities. These provocations show us how we might apply cooperative principles in new terrains, in new configurations, and with new populations claiming co-ownership. Join us in building new forms of trust.” 

Over the course of the last year we have seen devastating loss due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing, state- sanctioned murder of Black people. However, we have also seen an abundance of communal care, outrage and creation; in the form of protest, mutual-aid, and reinvigorated creative communities. This Institute and Forum will look at these new systems and how they are rooted in the practices of communities and movements who have worked towards liberation and equity historically, in the USA and beyond. How have artists been involved in, and what can we learn from, these practices of communal care and organizing? To think about these and more questions, The John B. Moore Documentary Collaborative invites national and international documentary and non-fiction makers working in any medium to apply for the MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute and MDOCS Forum.  We hope to convene makers, activists, educators, students, and institutions during the summer of 2021 to share examples, methodologies and best practices in non-fiction co-creation practice.  

Application details for the Student Fellows Storytellers’ Institute.