Film professor involves students in documentary process

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He’s found them as far away as Norway and as local as the UNC soccer fields. He’s even discovered them down the road in Durham and then taken them to West Africa.

When Gorham “Hap” Kindem goes looking for the next subject of one of his award-winning documentaries, he doesn’t always know where it’ll be.

The subject of his newest project, for instance, came from a Norwegian paraplegic skiing competition.

Kindem, a professor of communications studies, has made about a dozen documentaries since 1987.

His latest work, “More Than Meets the Eye,” focuses on Anne-Mette Bredahl — a blind skier — and her journey to the Vancouver Paralympics in 2010.

The film will be screened on campus on May 4, featuring a question-and-answer session with Kindem and a speaker from the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

It has also been selected for screening at the Boston International Film Festival on April 18.

“It isn’t my first film, but what makes it meaningful to me is I think it might be used to help raise money for blindness research,” Kindem said.

Bredahl said she hopes viewers can learn from her experiences.

“I found it could be used to show people how disabled people can have a rich life, with ups and downs, but also show how physical activity can be important in managing everyday life challenges,” she wrote in an email. “It is not just about fitness and winning medals.”

Kindem’s first documentary, 1987’s “Chuck Davis, Dancing Through West Africa,” followed Davis through Senegal and Gambia exploring the roots of African dance. The film was shown on PBS and the Discovery Channel and won a prestigious CINE Golden Eagle award.

“He gave all this energy and support without ever raising his voice, and he was always right there,” Davis said. “After the first couple of hours I said, as a director myself, ‘This man knows what he’s doing; whatever he says I’ll do.’”

Kindem’s documentaries focus on characters with a local or global impact.

“Sometimes the encounter or finding a subject that you find really compelling might be by chance, but what follows after is not,” he said.

“If it has strong characters and strong stories and if it can serve its social purpose, it makes me very happy,” he added.

Kindem’s 2009 documentary on the UNC women’s soccer team, “Winning Isn’t Everything,” played on the Fox Soccer Channel and received the Accolade Film Award.

Head coach Anson Dorrance said he agreed to work with Kindem after admiring a music video he filmed for Carolina for Kibera using footage of the team.

“When he approached us about doing the documentary I was in with both feet,” Dorrance said, adding that the film has become a useful recruiting tool for the program.

Bob Dylan even donated four songs to Kindem’s “Beyond The Wall,” about UNC’s infamous 1960s speaker ban.

But in addition to celebrities, Kindem also involves his students.

Amanda Younger, a senior journalism major, worked with Kindem on “More Than Meets the Eye,” adding effects to simulate blindness.

“I hope I’ll get to have the chance to work on more documentaries and come up with new ideas to use graphics and integrating them into film,” she said.

Kindem said attitudes like that are why he involves his students.

“I see my documentary filmmaking as directly connected to my teaching,” he said. “In terms of the experiences I retain and the lessons I learn, I bring that back into the classrooms.”

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