2021 Fall Conference Student Report – Doc Lab Launch

By Peter (Yanming) Shen

On the last day of the Humanities Research Fall Conference, the newest lab under the Humanities Research Center, the DOC Lab, was initiated. The DOC Lab, co-established by Prof. Kolleen Guy, Prof. Seth Henderson, and Prof. Kaley Clements aims to explore and understand the world of documentary.

At first Prof. Henderson briefly introduced leading members of the DOC Lab, also appreciated the support from the HRC. The lab plans to promote documentaries in any form and documentary studies in various approaches. Other than directly funding student-led documentary making and documentary-based research, the lab is planning a series of activities, including screening salons, filmmaking workshops, and many more.

The upcoming screening salons will be held regularly. The lab will invite documentary directors, artists, and filmmakers from China and abroad to share their works with the DKU community. The salon will first show the documentaries, then continue with discussion sessions between the directors and the audience. Additionally, photo exhibitions will be held. The first screening session will likely be The Six, which is about missing Chinese survivors on the Titanic, with director Arthur Jones.

Another major event is the documentary workshop. Members of the lab will organize and hold workshops for students about the basis of documentary making. Topics and speakers include, but are not limited to, Cici Cheng on correct image color, Stephanie Anderson on poetics documentary, Xin Tong on documentary and virtual reality, Robin Rodd on the ethnographic documentary, and Jung Choi on writing about the documentary for one specific topic.

Other than what is listed above, some funding of the lab will go to other projects. For example, Prof. Kaley has started archiving modern Chinese documentaries with scholars from Duke in Kunshan and Durham. It is said that the archive will be completed and open for researchers soon. Also, Prof. Kaley emphasized that the funding is open for any student-led documentary project in any form. In the future, the lab has a plan to recruit student Research Assistants and Production Assistants for making documentaries better.

At the end of the event, the lab held a small screening salon of a short work by Arthur Jones, The Dish that Disappears. This documentary features a traditional Shanghai snack Doubansu, which is also one of the early impressions of the director in Shanghai. In the tour searching Doubansu the documentary discusses the disappearing local cuisines and dishes in the development of a city.

Before the start of the DOC Lab, some DKU students had already made some documentaries. With the support of the lab, students or other DKU members who are interested in a documentary topic or plan to make a documentary can now apply for funding from the lab.

Currently, the lab has recruited some members, including Prof. Robin Rodd, Prof. Stephanie Anderson, Prof. Xin Tong, Prof. Keping Wu, Prof. Jung Choi, Prof. Caio Yugel, Prof. Cici Cheng, and Prof. Fati Abubakar Gangaran.