The Ripple Effect [Short]
The Ripple Effect is a short documentary about Carolyn Tuft, a survivor of the 2007 Trolley Square shooting in Salt Lake City, Utah. The film examines the long-lasting effects of gun violence.
Ten years ago, Carolyn took her 13-year-old daughter out to buy valentines cards. A young man, armed with several weapons, began systematically to open fire on shoppers. No reason.
Carolyn was shot at close range with a sawed-off shotgun several times, and her daughter died in her arms. Carolyn survived and still lives with over 200 lead shotgun pellets in her torso.
Along with her older daughter, Kait, mother and daughter have lobbied effortlessly on behalf of reasonable gun control. Carolyn still suffers the pain, and she was bankrupted by medical and pharmaceutical bills. It has not been an easy life for her and her family.
A University of Utah “Humanities in Focus” Film
Humanities in Focus is a yearlong course at the University of Utah that connects undergraduate honors students with community members from marginalized populations to produce groundbreaking documentary films. Led by Jeff Metcalf and Craig Wirth, the program builds community, fosters a commitment to social justice, and allows all involved to develop confidence and a range of skills.
The College of Humanities provides this opportunity at no cost to its highly qualified and capable participants, which means it relies on the generosity of individuals and foundations to make this program possible.
Support the Humanities in Focus program
The Perfect Donor [Work-in-progress]
The Perfect Donor examines the unregulated market for human eggs. With the growing demand for young healthy women to provide eggs for pay, few have stopped to ask: Is egg donation safe?
The stories of eight egg donors are told against the backdrop of the infertility industry. While some women experience joy helping people become parents, others discover that the thousands of dollars they were paid for their eggs comes at a greater cost – to their own health, well-being, and future fertility.
The Love Competition [Short]
In the world’s first “love competition,” seven contestants have five m
inutes in a Stanford University fMRI machine to love someone as hard as they can. A frequent FiReFilms Valentine’s Day bonus short.
The Internet’s Own Boy
The Internet’s Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing, combined with his aggressive approach to information access, that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.
Take action: http://www.takepart.com/internets-own-boy/index.html#takeaction
In the ‘80s, an eccentric billionaire decided he was going to try and create the world’s smartest children. Robert Graham was convinced that the biggest problem facing mankind today was that intelligent people weren’t having enough kids, and unintelligent people were having too many kids; so, he decided to create the first Nobel Prize sperm bank. Nobel Prize winners would donate sperm, and he would give the genius sperm, for free, to women who qualified for Mensa and had superior IQs. He was ridiculed in the media because of his eugenic beliefs and white-only policy, and often compared to Hitler and Nazi Germany. Nonetheless, 200 kids were born.
Genius Factory is a biography on the eccentric billionaire Robert Graham, tells the story of the 19 years that the sperm bank was in operation and the controversy surrounding it, and interviews three of the more interesting kids, who are now in their early 30s, to find out if the experiment worked.
When you post something on the web, can you be sure it stays there? Enter a hidden shadow industry of digital cleaning, where the internet rids itself of what it doesn’t like. Who is controlling what we see… and what we think?
The Cleaners unveils a giant shadow industry of digital censorship in Manila, the world’s largest outsourcing location for content moderation. There tens of thousands of people working in 10-hour shifts on behalf of large Silicon Valley companies to delete incriminating photos and videos from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and more. Complex decisions about censorship or visibility of content are thus outsourced to the “content moderators.” The criteria and guidelines they use are one of the best-kept secrets of Silicon Valley.
The cruelty and the continuous burden of this traumatic work changes the perception and personality of the content moderators. But that’s not all. They are forbidden to talk about their experiences.
In addition to the stories of five content moderators, the film tells of the global impact of online censorship and shows how fake news and hate are spread and amplified through social networks. The utopian vision of a networked global internet community is finally becoming a nightmare when high-ranking former social-network workers provide insights into the mechanisms of the platforms. Through targeted amplification and duplication of all kinds of emotions, the platforms become dangerous accelerators, fueling social and political conflicts and driving the threat of division of our society. (Translation by Google Translate, lightly edited)
STEP chronicles the senior year of a girls’ high-school step dance team against the background of inner-city Baltimore. These young women find a unity through their team that pushes them to challenge themselves on and off the stage. Empowered by their teachers, teammates, counselors, coaches, and families, they chase their ultimate dreams: to win a step championship and to be accepted into college.
This all-female school is reshaping the futures of its students’ lives by making it their goal to have every member of their senior class accepted to and graduate from college, many of whom will be the first in their family to do so. Emotionally inspiring, STEP embodies the true meaning of sisterhood through a story of courageous young women worth cheering for.
An intimate, behind-the-scenes view of the initial dot-com mania, Startup.com follows the adventures of childhood friends Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman as they create govWorks.com, an award-winning website that lets citizens interact with their local governments.
Within a year, the two young entrepreneurs raise 60 million dollars, hire hundreds of employees, and rub shoulders with President Clinton. As the stock market tests the strength of their business, they wrestle with growing pains, tackle technical difficulties, charter the unpredictable venture capital waters, and outsmart copycat competition. But in the end, none of these challenges prepares Kaleil and Tom for their own conflict over the management of govworks.com, a conflict that will not only endanger their company and their jobs, but also irrevocably endanger their lifelong friendship. Startup.com is a classic story about friendship and values at the dawn of the Internet Age.
Startup.com premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.
Sniffing Out Cancer [Work-in-progress]
The filmmakers’ mission for this DOGumentary is to create awareness, to generate more research, and to one day see a simple, non-invasive, accurate, affordable cancer screening process in effect all over the world: “We need more doctors aware of this. We need more trainers and dogs to get this out to the public.”
Sister Wife [Short]
Documentary filmmaker Jill Orschel, whose work has been showcased at film festivals worldwide, immerses herself in her subjects, taking the time to develop relationships built on trust and authenticity, resulting in an intimate style full of heart. Her award-winning short documentaries offer complex portraits of women struggling to discover their roles in challenging environments.
Jill earned an MFA in Film Studies at the University of Utah while raising two sons. For over 18 years, she photographed the Sundance Institute’s prestigious summer lab programs, during which time her passion for independent documentary filmmaking was ignited.
As founder of an annual local filmmakers showcase in Park City, now in its 13th year, Jill continues to mentor and collaborate with other Utah filmmakers. Her film Sister Wife, which premiered in competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and won honors at SXSW, was a product of unprecedented access to a woman living within a secretive polygamous sect. Jill is currently in post-production on her character-driven feature-length documentary Snowland, about an individual from that same religious group who turns to art to overcome adversity. Jill is deeply committed to the evolving craft of documentary filmmaking, and she hopes her work will help make the world a more beautiful and tolerant place.