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New production class puts social justice issues under the lens

By Norma Reyes

Feb. 18, 2014 1:42 a.m.

Students can now enroll in a new class designed to capture social justice issues through documentary filmmaking.

Housed in the departments of disability studies and urban planning, the pilot class hopes to teach students how to use media production to promote social change. It will be held for the first time this spring.

Disability Studies M164A: Documentary Production for Social Change: Mobility in L.A. will be offered to students with junior and senior standing. Andy Rice, who recently graduated from UC San Diego with a doctorate in communication studies, will teach the course. The class is also offered under Urban Planning M164A.

The class will focus on issues of access to public transit and the experiences of commuting in Los Angeles.

The class will also address questions of race, gender, ethnicity and disability, as well as ways to promote social justice through film, Rice said.

Students interested in the class can apply to enroll by sending Rice an email detailing why they want to take the class in 150-200 words. The course enrollment capacity is about 20 students and applications are due Friday.

Students with all majors can enroll in the course and petition to have it count as a general education requirement, Rice said.

Jaklyn Nunga, a fourth-year anthropology student and current Daily Bruin video contributor, who is already enrolled in the class, said she was intrigued by the course because she has been using public transportation in Los Angeles for four years to get to and from school.

“I’ve met a lot of people, had a lot of interesting conversations, witnessed some sketchy things, but overall enjoyed my experiences. You can get a good breadth of L.A. when riding the Metro,” Nunga said.

Nunga, who has some video production experience, said she is eager to take the class because she wants the opportunity to use her video production skills in meaningful ways.

I believe that there is a growing responsibility in the media community to make and send messages,” Nunga said.

Rice created the course in partnership with Undergraduate Education Initiatives at UCLA and the Academy for Social Progress in Responsible Entertainment, a nonprofit organization that will fund the course’s materials. The academy aims to partner with other universities to teach other courses like the one Rice created.

“The key question here is: ‘How do you use a camera to make sense of the world as it unfolds?'” Rice said.

Rice wants to give students with diverse majors a chance to do video production work, take on social issues and represent them through a camera. He also hopes to provide students with the opportunity to address difficult questions through film.

“The class will be hands-on film production. No writing, just filmmaking,” Rice said. “There is a theme of community. Students will have short exercises to learn how to represent movement through space.”

The class will be the pilot for a series of courses Rice and the disability studies program hope to start at UCLA. Rice and his colleagues are still developing the other classes for the program.

All the classes will touch on the topics of sustainability, civil rights, organizations of cities and other social justice issues.

Several filmmakers are set to visit the class as guest speakers throughout the quarter, including the makers of “The Invisible War,” a 2012 Academy Award nominated documentary about sexual assault in the United States military.

“It has to do with thinking about film production as a kind of knowledge that can get to the sort of things that writing can’t,” Rice said.

Rice also said the class aims to teach nonfiction filmmaking to the students, which will allow them to understand filmmaking at a basic level even if they choose not to pursue it as a career.

Bryan Ochoa, a third-year Chicana/o studies student who has already signed up for the class, said his major and background prompted him to take the course.

“Issues of race, class, gender and ethnicity are often discussed openly and in intersectional ways,” Ochoa said. “Disability is often overlooked in this department.”

Ochoa also said his experience living in a Latino community in Orange County inspired him to enroll in the class. Because his mother is an immigrant, she was never able to obtain a license and the two of them often resorted to public transportation.

“As a current commuter from Orange County who uses car, bicycle, bus, and light rail lines, I found this course very intriguing and a great way to explore the topic of the commute in Los Angeles,” Ochoa said.

Rice said he hopes the model for the class will help students create interesting work.

“These are challenging types of films,” he said, “I think that’s important, to think about what they offer and what they limit.”

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Norma Reyes
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