American University recently hosted Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu who taught a Master’s Class to School of Communication MFA students and screened her documentary Last Call at the Oasis in the School’s new Forman Theater. Yu was on campus as a guest of SOC's Center for Media & Social Impact Visiting Filmmaker Series. For more than ten years, CMSI has brought leading documentary filmmakers to AU to interact with students and present their work for the local community.
Yu works across documentary and fiction and film and television. Her film Breathing Lessons won an Oscar for best documentary short. In addition to documentaries, she has directed for popular television series, including Grey’s Anatomy and The West Wing.
Yu was selected in part because her film served as a touchstone for SOC’s Water Project, launched this year to take on the toughest issues of water safety and scarcity across communication professions and academic disciplines. More than 20 professors have included water related assignments in their courses this year involving hundreds of students in projects with partner organizations.
Yu was introduced by former SOC dean Larry Kirkman, who directs the Water Project, and underscored the importance of Last Call and its connection to the school.
“It is a rare social documentary – compelling, beautiful, informative, and motivating. It puts a human face on public policy, frames the debate and points the way.”
“Jessica Yu and this marvelous film reflect the School of Communication’s focus on public affairs and public purpose media and embody the missions of the sponsoring organizations,” he said.
Last Call at the Oasis is a production of Participant Media, the company that produced An Inconvenient Truth. Participant Media is known for producing films committed to social action and advocacy. Yu has just finished another feature social documentary for Participant Media on population, Misconception, which she will screen at SOC this fall.
Yu was also interviewed for Pull Focus, an ongoing online discussion from CMSI that explores the practice and purpose of documentary filmmaking.
Angelica Das, Associate Director, CMSI, explains, "Pull Focus is a valuable resource for students and the community at large on the subject of social documentary, and Yu's voice adds another perspective, a unique kind of expertise to the conversation."
CMSI is dedicated to promoting media as a tool for public knowledge and action, and hosts online podcasts and transcripts of the Pull Focus interviews with filmmakers, which focus on the technical, ethical and public engagement challenges confronting experienced and emerging filmmakers CMSI.
Yu’s visit was sponsored in part by an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences program to bring Academy Award-winners to universities.