Double-Feature Documentary Screening Doesn’t Look Away from Difficult Subjects

A documentary double-feature promises not to look away from difficult subjects like the history of how the early U.S. government acquired lands and the desperate circumstances of LGBTQ people living in repressive regimes.

“Stories I Didn’t Know” follows Irish American Rita searching for a fabled ancestral history revolving around Pike Island, which her family once owned. But as Rita seeks truth, she finds a dark history of the theft of Wita Tanka, a sacred island associated with creation in Dakota religion and learns about the deadly interment of Dakota people there. She meets Dakota educator Ramona (Santee Sioux) and confronts questions about what, if anything, can be made right. Rita, Ramona, and NSU New Media Professor Melody Gilbert (who co-wrote and produced the film) will discuss the film afterwards. (Watch a trailer here:

“Welcome to Chechnya” confronts the brutality of anti-LGBTQ pogroms in Chechnya, a Russian republic, through the eyes of activists risking death to expose the atrocities. Using new technological protections to ensure the activists’ anonymity, the film joins these activists on underground operations to rescue victims and help them immigrate to safety.

The films are part of the Documentary Screening series organized by Professor Melody Gilbert in the Department of New Media, Journalism and Communication Arts and The History We Stand On series organized by Ethnic Studies and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. The screenings will take place Monday, March 7 at 5:30 p.m. in Varnado Hall Ballroom. There is no fee to attend, and all are welcome.

In addition to the screening, Gilbert will moderate a Q&A after “Stories I Didn’t Know” with Ramona and Rita, and after “Welcome to Chechnya” with Igor Myakotin, the producer. There will also be pizza provided in between the screenings for students in attendance.

“As a documentary filmmaker myself, I know that watching the film is important, but talking about it after is the key to opening hearts and minds. I’m thrilled to co-present this double-feature with our partners and our filmmaker guests to be able to convene, converse and connect,” Gilbert said. She organizes the Documentary Screening Series monthly.

“Students and members of the public frequently have questions about the histories of Black and Indigenous people associated with land,” added Dr. Rebecca Riall, NSU’s acting coordinator of Ethnic Studies and assistant professor of Criminal Justice and Anthropology. “The History We Stand On Series is a series of films, speakers and other programs to help open conversations about topics such as how we can face history in meaningful ways and understand its social impacts in the present.”

“It is so important that we screen these documentaries as it is vital that the community hears and sees the stories of people from diverse walks of life,” explained Coordinator Brittany Blackwell Broussard of the Center for Inclusion and Diversity at NSU.

The screening is sponsored by Northwestern State University’s New Media, Journalism, and Communication Arts Department; American Indian & Indigenous Studies Program; Center for Diversity and Inclusion; Ethnic Studies; English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies; and the School of Creative and Performing Arts.

For more information about the screening or about each series, please contact Riall at (318) 357-6963.