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The William & Stephanie Clohesy Documentary Film Series

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Stephanie and William Clohesy have made their film series available for UNI students for the past six years.

ALLYN OXLEY, Staff Writer

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Over the next two days, the UNI Department of Communication Studies will host the Clohesy Documentary Film Series, featuring documentary filmmaker, philanthropist and social activist Abigail Disney, who is a member of the famous Disney filmmaking family.

Today, a screening of Disney’s film “Armor of Light” will be held in Lang Hall Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Tomorrow, Disney will give a public lecture at 10 a.m. in the Rod Library Scholar Space, which will be followed later in the day by a screening of her film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” in Sabin Hall, Room 002, at 7:30 p.m.

Since 2011, the Department of Communication Studies has hosted the Clohesy Documentary Film Series to showcase both the filmmakers and the processes that go on behind the scenes of documentary filmmaking.

The film series is named after William Clohesy, a UNI professor of philosophy, and his wife Stephanie, who runs a philanthropic consultation business in Cedar Falls.

William and Stephanie Clohesy have always had a deep appreciation for the art of documentary filmmaking and wanted to share that with the students of UNI and the Cedar Falls community. Over the past six years, they’ve selected various notable filmmakers for the series, including Lucy Walker, a British filmmaker and two-time Academy Award nominee.

When searching for filmmakers, William Clohesy said he looks for specific qualities.

“We look at descriptions of films and at shorts of them and try to pick the ones that would be of most interest to an academic audience — would be good for class discussions and things like that,” W. Clohesy said.

Disney was chosen to visit UNI this year for her focus on humanitarian issues such as women’s rights and peace.  

“Abigail’s work is very much involved in current debates and culture and, particularly, about women’s issues and peace building,” said Chris Martin, communication studies professor.

“So the piece that she’ll be showing, ‘Pray the Devil Back to Hell,’ is just about that. It’s about women’s issues and peace building. And then the other piece she’ll be showing, ‘The Armor of Light,’ also deals with some of those same issues.”

Over six years ago, Martin teamed up with David O’Shields, communication studies instructor and documentary filmmaker, along with the Clohesys to create the series.

“It was really David O’Shields who inspired us to come up with the idea,” W. Clohesy said. “He proposed it to us, and we liked it very much.”

Martin stressed the series’ impact on the UNI community.

“I thought it was a really great idea to get started, and I thought it would be a big asset to the department of communication studies and the university and community as a whole,” Martin said.

He said the film series also benefits students by exposing them to successful filmmakers in the business. 

“As we’ve had in past years, I think it is an incredible opportunity for UNI students to meet one of the world’s top documentary filmmakers,” Martin said. “I mean, it is an amazing privilege to be able to be in a small auditorium and see this person’s work and then hear her talk about her work. It’s just really an incredible opportunity.”

This year’s series features two documentary films that both address difficult topics and reveal the necessity to address them and to find peace.

“We’ve also really looked — you know, when we’ve looked at an array of films, we tend to be attracted to the ones that are really covering some tough and difficult issues in the area of human and social justice,” S. Clohesy said.

Stephanie and William present these topics due to their own interest in social and human justice, but also to help students and people in the community gain an understanding of how these issues are addressed around the world.

“I also think that both the two films, they raise sort of different issues, but, of course, there’s kind of a common thread of the humanity of trying to do the right thing,” S. Clohesy said.

The Clohesys expressed excitement about Disney’s visit to UNI to showcase her films to the community.

“People who make documentary film say they bring a lot of baggage to it, mostly in really good ways because…it’s an art form,” S. Clohesy said. “And so they bring everything that an artist would bring.”

S. Clohesy urged students to take advantage of seeing difficult topics through a new lens and to experience the art of documentary film.

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The William & Stephanie Clohesy Documentary Film Series