NSU faculty member Melody Gilbert discusses documentary work at two international film festivals

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NSU faculty member Melody Gilbert, second from right, being interviewed by Bulgarian National Television

Northwestern State University Assistant Professor of Communication Melody Gilbert recently traveled to Bulgaria and Modlova to discuss her documentary films and work with emerging filmmakers.

A retrospective of her documentaries was presented as part of the Sofia Documental film festival.  Organizers said they wanted to have a special section of some of Gilbert’s films as one of the “most influential documentarists.”

According to Festival organizers, “the films Melody directs are noteworthy for featuring a rare intimacy with her subjects as she unearths previously hidden worlds. She has the ability to get people to reveal their innermost thoughts whether it’s people who have full-fledged relationships with synthetic companions (‘Synthetic Soul’), or two Bulgarian girls who try to follow their dreams in the USA (‘The Summer Help’), or in her latest film, ‘Stories I Didn’t Know,’ in which a search for Irish ancestors leads a woman down an unexpected path to a family secret about a sacred piece of land.’”

“I was thrilled to get this invitation and for the honor. I’m grateful for the acknowledgment that my creative work means something to people in another country and I’m proud that I represented NSU while I was there,” said Gilbert.

The festival showed two of Gilbert’s shorts: “Beneath the Ink” about a Ohio tattoo artist enriching lives by removing hateful and racist tattoos and “Viewfinder,” which tells the story of Michael, who every day for the past 23 years has taken a single picture with a film camera, a process which takes on a new meaning when he starts to lose his memory.

While in Sofia, she was interviewed by Bulgarian National Television.

In Moldova, Gilbert trained emerging filmmakers as part of Moldox Film Festival in Cahul, Modlova. She taught a master class and tutored filmmakers with social justice films and gave them feedback on their projects. Gilbert said the program is called Inspiration Workshop. She helped prepare the students for pitching their projects to a jury of industry professionals from all over Europe.

“My goal with all my films is to open hearts and minds and to create conversations,” said Gilbert. “As a filmmaker, I don’t have answers. I’m just taking you on my journey of discovery.  I’m happy to say that there were many deep and thoughtful conversations after my screenings in Sofia, so I feel like that goal was accomplished.”

Gilbert’s visit was sponsored by the U.S. Embassies in Bulgaria and Moldova.

“It felt great to travel overseas and to be out in the world again for in person events after almost two years of this pandemic,” said Gilbert. “Connecting with other filmmakers and viewers was so joyful. Watching a movie on a laptop screen is convenient, but there is nothing like being a room together with other people and having the shared experience of watching a film together on a big screen and having a discussion afterwards.”

Gilbert taught at a Bulgarian university for four years and  got to reconnect with many of her former students and colleagues.

Gilbert is an award-winning director, producer, cinematographer and editor who has directed 12 feature-length documentaries that have screened at prestigious film festivals and been distributed internationally. The films she directs are noteworthy for featuring a rare intimacy with her subjects as she unearths previously hidden worlds. She works mostly solo as a one-woman crew and has the ability to get people to reveal their innermost thoughts, whether it’s the family of a child who can’t feel pain (“A Life Without Pain”/Sundance Channel), a former vice president of the United States (“Fritz: The Walter Mondale Story”/ PBS), or people who have full-fledged relationships with synthetic companions (“Silicone Soul”/Starz). She received a national Emmy nomination for “Beneath The Ink’ and an Alfred I. duPont award for “Love Them First” (2020). The Documentary Channel once called Gilbert “one of the most fearless filmmakers in contemporary documentary cinema.”

She joined the faculty at Northwestern State in the Department of New Media, Journalism and Communication Arts in 2019. To see trailers of all her films, go to: www.frozenfeetfilm.com. IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1745923/#directorne