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Students

Class of 2019

Jennifer Boles received her BA from the University of Colorado at Denver and her PhD in history at Indiana University-Bloomington. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow and instructor of Latin American film studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She came to documentary through the process of archival research and ethnography, finding it more intuitive than academic writing and better suited to historical nuance and the politics of storytelling. At Northwestern, she seeks the support, courage, and inspiration to find her voice as a filmmaker. She is currently working on an archival-based coming of age film about an eight-millimeter film movement in Mexico City in the 1970s and a short essay film about a Cuban novelist and collage artist in New York.

Benjamin Buxton has lived throughout the United States. Moving several times between Georgia, North Dakota and Hawaii, he considers Utah his home. Fluent in Spanish he has spent years of his life in Mexico and South America. He has worked professionally in film since he was 17 and has been based in Los Angeles since 2015. He has balanced his time between film and humanitarian work. Through the Northwestern film program he hopes to develop his style of documentary film in a way that creates engaging spaces of dialogue and visual experimentation.

Agustín Donoso is from Santiago, Chile. He discovered his passion for documentary when he studied Journalism at Universidad de los Andes. While studying journalism, Donoso traveled to Ushuaia, Argentina to shoot a short documentary about the beaver invasion in the area. He has continued to work on a number of documentaries for television and directed and produced four multimedia projects. As an academic he has participated in a number of international congresses, and has published articles in scientific magazines. His mother language is Spanish and he is also fluent in English. While at Northwestern, Donoso hopes to, learn how to blend entertainment with education so that his films reach and help more Chileans.

Camila Guarda is a Chilean journalist who received her Bachelor’s degree at Universidad del Desarrollo in Santiago. Fluent in both Spanish and English, she has worked at the two biggest television stations in her country, where her role as an international journalist had her covering breaking news in Latin America. Among various stories, she went to Argentina to cover the people’s reaction to Pope Francis being elected, she was in Brazil in the midst of the social protests of 2014, covered the World Cup, and the Argentinian and Brazilian general elections. She was then appointed as a Special Reports Editor for the prime-time news broadcast at Channel 13. At Nothwestern, she hopes to develop her voice as a documentarian in order to highlight extraordinary stories and elicit change within a global context.

Will Klein is a filmmaker from Columbus, Ohio. He received a BFA from the SUNY Purchase College Film Conservatory in 2013. His films include Motions 1-4, an experiment in movement, and Scent, a documentary that follows a heroin addict in the suburban Midwest. He has spent the last several years helping to combat the influx of opiate addiction in Central Ohio. One of his current interests is exploring the shifting role of truth and reality in contemporary society. His influences include Albert Camus, David Lynch, Lou Reed, and the Maysles Brothers.

Jung Ah Kim was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea and spent her middle school years at the International School of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. She went to Sogang University, earning undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Philosophy. As she grew more interested in art and theory, she pursued a graduate degree in Aesthetics in Seoul National University and received an MA by writing a thesis on Leibniz’s Theory on Sensible Knowledge. Her recent work, a documentary called ‘Gundudugi’ was screened at the 17th Seoul Independent Documentary Film Festival. Currently Kim’s audiovisual essay on Bong Junho’s film world is on exhibition in Seoul. While in the program, she seeks to improve her technical skills while exploring various aesthetic forms.

Born and raised in New York City, Naeema Jamilah Torres was led to filmmaking through her passion for creative writing as a teenager. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in film production from the City College of New York, and pursued a career in content distribution working for home entertainment companies such as Cinedigm and HBO. In addition to freelance media work, Naeema currently volunteers with the Foster Care Film & Community Engagement Project, working on the educational licensing and distribution of their award-winning documentary series. Naeema is interested in pursuing documentary filmmaking to direct and produce stories exploring underrepresented topics in the mainstream.

Natasha Nair is 21 years old and was born and raised in Mumbai. She pursued her Bachelors Degree in Mass Media from K.C. College, Mumbai, starting her journey of cinema and the artistic world of filmmaking. This is when she fell in love with the human aspect of filmmaking and wished to pursue the genre of documentary. She went on to be a part of a team shooting a film for rural farmers, kids born with Down’s Syndrome and the veterans of the armed forces. She has won various awards for her cinematography and direction for short films and received over 60000 views on YouTube for her documentary ‘Nirastra’. Currently, she is assisting in several short films, weddings and events.

Jessica Scott is an east-coaster at heart, but has resided in Chicago for more than a decade. She earned her first bachelors degree from Hampton University with a degree in Psychology and become a social worker for ten years, where she counseled and treated youth and adults suffering from addiction. Jessica earned her second undergraduate degree in journalism and radio from Columbia College Chicago, where she garnered her first Emmy-nomination as a producer. Jessica stumbled into video while working as the multimedia-editor at the award-winning Columbia Chronicle, but it wasn’t until she was asked to produce her first short for class that she fell in love with documentaries. Jessica hopes to make documentaries that will provoke thought, change people’s minds, and encourage people to make a difference in other people’s lives. She is eager to learn all she can at Northwestern and hopes to use her lens to inspire others.

Molly Wagener is an artist from the Chicago area. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art History and Photography where she focused on the intersection of media and politics. After graduating, Molly worked as the Deputy Press Secretary of Digital Media in the Office of the Governor of Illinois, creating and editing video content for the governor’s social media. Molly is interested in the ways in which visual media influences and shapes the political sphere. At Northwestern she hopes to expand her knowledge of film production and learn how storytelling and cinematography can create powerful discourse.

Jiayu Yang, born and raised in Guilin, a southern city of China, just finished her undergraduate study of International Chinese Language Teaching in Beijing Language and Culture University. Being a member of Miao community and having a father as an entomologist, she wants to make documentaries about her own upbringing culture and the untold stories in rural China. Jiayu sees documentary as a sacred field of art, as well as a strong way to express, reveal and enlighten with the power of truth. In addition to that, she’s interested in all forms of moving image. Challenging the boundary between fiction feature film and documentary is also her goal.

Ziyi Yang is a playwright, clown, and dancer, and loves road trips, Chinese poetry, and her hometown Nanjing. She earned her BA in Writing for Performance at Brown University, is dedicated to folklore and oral history, and will present her one-woman show BROKE LITTER: WOOSH! at Providence Fringe Festival this July. Ziyi is also a huge believer of healing and compassion. She is a visual person and obsessed with verbatim performance, dreams, the passage of time, hundred-year eggs, and the fourth dimension.

Class of 2020

Emmely Aldave was born in Peru and came to the United States when she was 9 years old. She lived in a very small town in New York. Spanish is her first language but when she came to the States, she fell in love with the English language. Aldave got her BA in English Literature and Spanish. She currently is a teacher assistant in an elementary school where she teaches both English and Spanish. During her senior year of college, Aldave decided to make a small film about immigrants. Aldave is currently working on a documentary for the school that she works with and is also teaching students on how to create their own content. She aspires to make films that have an impact on the viewer’s mind, even so, to create a ripple effect in this society. Through Northwestern’s MFA in Documentary Media, she wants to learn how to expand her voice, her storytelling and increase her knowledge in film production. 

Ian Bertorelli was born and raised in Chicago. He speaks English, some Italian, and a little Japanese and Gaelic. Bertorelli studied writing for the screen and stage in New York City at NYU Tisch and finished his undergraduate degree in 2009. Since then he has been a self-employed artist and craftsperson. Bertorelli is interested in documentary as a tool for social change and is fascinated by Chicago’s rich history of documentarians and journalists. Bertorelli hopes to meet some new collaborators and encounter new viewpoints and perspectives in the program with the goal of enriching and complicating his own work and practice. In this past year, Bertorelli has been building bespoke maple furniture. He is a violinist/fiddler going on 30 years playing the instrument.

Milton Guillén is a Nicaraguan independent filmmaker that explores the borders between fiction and documentaries. His main interests gravitate around the cinematic intersections of ethnographic research and sensorial experiences. Milton’s first feature, The Maribor Uprisings, is a live participatory documentary about social unrests and has screened in major film festivals and universities around the world, earning it the Society for Visual Anthropology Best Feature Film award in 2017. Milton studied anthropology at Colby College and film direction at the Film and Television Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague. He’s directed several commercials, documentaries, and fiction projects in several countries and hopes to dwell in the formalistic possibilities of documentary while at Northwestern.

Mireya Guzmán-Ortiz is a queer, racialized, child of immigrants. They grew up in Oregon and received their BA from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. There, they majored in Critical Ethnic Studies, minored in German, and completed a concentration in Media Studies. Their undergraduate thesis was a short experimental documentary about gender and coloniality. After working at a youth driven arts collaborative for a year, they decided it was time to 
expand and grow​ their storytelling and technical documentary skills. At NU, they will further develop the trans and interdisciplinary work of combining the quotidian, the academic, and the aesthetic. Mireya is excited to continue working toward liberation, using media and art to whittle away at—and thrive within and without—systems that oppress so many of us.

Cecilia Kim is a South Korean born artist and has called England, Australia, Singapore, and Chicago “home,” traveling expansively across the world. Kim has received her Bachelors in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is focused on finding the crossover between fine art moving image and documentary filmmaking. She documents conversations and intimate encounters with people around her. Recording in Korean with diaristic subtitles, Kim explores cultural displacement and strings together personal narratives. She draws inspiration from Slow Cinema and videos that document socially engaged art practice. During the past year she has interned at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and EXPO CHICAGO. At Northwestern, she strives to learn and adopt documentary techniques that will allow a more effective delivery of these collected narratives.

Elana Meyers was born and raised in New York City. She went to Oberlin College in Ohio where she first got a taste of the great midwest. After graduating, she worked at a few production companies as a freelancer and did camera work on feature docs. Her most exciting job was operating camera for Careforce, a web series about a mom, her son, and their 1960 Mercury Station Wagon as they traveled from New York to Miami talking to domestic workers about their rights. She also was recently given a grant to film a short doc in Shanghai about a precocious seamstress. Besides making, watching, or talking about films, Elana enjoys traveling, cooking, and dog sitting. 

Ruidi Ni is from China and graduated from East China Normal University with a degree in Environmental Science.  While Ni majored in science during high school, it was on campus at East China Normal University that he discovered his real passion for filmmaking.  Ni is interested in exploring sub-cultures and wishes to excavate stories of lesser known cultures and people.  Ni has recently been traveling the world from Shangahai to South Africa creating a series of short documentaries examining the cultures and stories of each country he visits.  While at Northwestern, Ni hopes to strengthen his foundation of storytelling and improve his ability to explore diverse cultures via documentary.

Isabella Ostos was born in Cali, Colombia, where she lived until the age of twelve. Isabella attended Florida State University and graduated with a bachelors degree in anthropology and international affairs. She has worked under the supervision of Professor Cheryl Furjanic of NYU, where she conducted archival research on queer activists in the United States, furthering her understanding of documentary making. She wants to utilize documentary media as a medium to investigate and cover social justice issues that affect minorities on a domestic and international level. More specifically issues related to race and immigration in the United States and Latino America.

Lauren Poe is a recent graduate of Georgia State University, where she studied film and English, building a bridge between her love of images and rhetoric. She was born and raised in Atlanta, GA, a city that often finds itself in her work. She has worked extensively with Turner Broadcasting under CNN and TBS/TNT Networks, where she got a taste of the corporate and creative side of television production. One of her current interests is creating work both documentary and narrative, that challenges convention while providing nuanced depictions of forgotten characters. While at Northwestern, she hopes to utilize available resources to develop her voice and visual aesthetic.

Abbigail Vandersnick is a multi-media artist working within frames of film, photography, sound art, installations, and writing. She graduated in 2015 from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, and moved to Houston, Texas, later in the same year. She has worked as an editor, director, screenwriter, cinematographer, and post-supervisor on various short and feature films. She has recently finished post-production on the feature film, Seeds of All Things, about HOPE Clinic, a community healthcare center, and the families that seek its services. At Northwestern, Abbigail hopes to find fellow collaborators, makers, and artists who wish to challenge the process of documentary making in all of its iterations and imbue these questions into the work that’s created within and beyond the program. She also hopes to improve upon her skills in cinematography, sound, and remain open to the insights and wisdom of her fellow creative classmates.

Xinyan Wang was born and raised in Tianjin, a city in northern China. She earned her BA in French at Bryn Mawr College with a minor in Film Studies. Her interest in documentaries started with an intro class during her sophomore year. Her internship experiences with an independent documentary filmmaker and at Philadelphia Community Access Media offer her a more comprehensive understanding of the life as a documentary filmmaker and an opportunity to practice her editing skills. During this past semester, her senior thesis examined the philosophy of cinéma vérité brought up by Jean Rouch and its development in France. At the same time, she also made a short film experimenting with the form of docu-fiction. She is interested in creating documentaries about lives of ordinary people in Chinese society. Xinyan hopes to get a systematic training on technical skills as well as film theories and to create documentaries under the help of professionals at Northwestern.

Zixin Zhang is an artist, filmmaker and screenwriter from Beijing, China, who received her BFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her exhibitions about film, painting and sculpture installations have been seen across the world, including the United States, Spain, China, India, and Russian etc. As one of the founders of Vofo Studio, she aims to use the broad applicability of photography and film to ignite changes. Zhang has directed and shot her own feature-length documentary in the Antarctic with the scientific group that focuses on issues of children’s education while exploring the environment of Antarctica in the world of nature, science, and art. While feeding her lifelong curiosity about film and media, she believes she can make films and documentaries while challenging the boundary and provoking changes through the MFA in Documentary Media program at Northwestern.