First MU documentary graduates premiere their films

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COLUMBIA - The Stronger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival will premiere films from soon-to-be Missouri School of Journalism graduates on Wednesday.

The students are the first to graduate from the Johnathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism. Students directed their films from start to finish.

Throughout the day, 18 films will play at the Missouri Theatre. The films will be split up into different blocks during the festival. After each film plays, there will be be Q&A sessions with the student directors.

Kellan Marvin's film, Welcome to Normal, focuses on someone from her hometown, Normal, Illinois, who is "abnormal" in her spiritual beliefs. Marvin said the documentary program at MU taught her the technical aspects of creating a documentary and different theories on film and ethics. 

"It's really open and really free, and I think that leads to the best product," she said.

Marvin said people will be surprised at the high-quality of the students' films.

"They'll also be surprised that it came out of a journalism school and not a film school," Marvin said. "A lot of our films take an aesthetic approach to documentary rather than educational. There are still some investigative stories, but I think we really focused on making them cinematic."

Marvin said she and most of the other students whose films are premiering have jobs set up after graduation.

There will also be awards for the films. The judges are Eric Hynes, a freelance film critic who has written for the New York Times; Lyric R. Cabral, the director of the documentary (T)ERROR; and Rachel Boynton, the director of documentaries Our Brand is Crisis and Big Men.