Stanford documentarians get a chance to share stories on the big screen

Frost Amphitheater to host screening of six short films by first-year MFA students
by Karla Kane / Palo Alto Weekly
While viewing a film is an experience that lends itself pretty well to social distancing, there's still something special about watching on the big screen in the company of fellow audience members.
"I really miss the joy and the emotional journey of sitting next to people watching a movie," said Azza Cohen. She, along with her five fellow first-year students in Stanford University's Documentary Film MFA program, will get a chance to share the short films they've made this spring at an in-person, outdoor event at Stanford's Frost Amphitheater on Thursday, June 10.
"Nothing left to do but marvel," Cohen's film, is an experimental, immersive project rooted in her personal experience dealing with chronic migraine headaches stemming from a concussion. She juxtaposes anonymous audio interviews with other migraine and chronic pain sufferers with soft-focus, blurry visuals to express how pain can distort one's worldview. Coming from a journalism background, she said this project was a chance to flex her creativity and push herself to try new ideas and techniques.
"It's amazing how many people relate to this topic," Cohen said. "It's been very interesting and very cathartic to connect with other people."
Maxwell Lee Mueller, too, wove his own life into his documentary, titled "The Key To It."
His film starts out as the story of Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller, two long-married puppeteers, authors and theater-makers based in the North Bay. While he was originally drawn to the visual appeal of puppeteering, Mueller soon became intrigued by the couple's enduring bond, their spirituality, and their life and career together. Midway through the film, he incorporates conversations with his own partner, and the film becomes a parallel tale of two relationships.
"I find it really easy to assess what is interesting about other people, and making a film about someone else is sort of an act of love," he said. "It feels so hard to turn that same gaze on myself. It takes a leap of faith that what I'm putting out there is something other people might be interested in."