May 27, 2015

USC Represented in a Big Way at Dances With Films Festival

By Vanessa Okoth-Obbo

Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes the promise of even better SoCal weather, fun outdoor activities, and, of course, film festivals.

To kick off the season, movie-lovers can look forward to the 18th session of Dances With Films: a Los Angeles festival devoted to independent films, documentaries, and music videos. This year the Trojan Family will be well represented, as 11 entries from USC-affiliated filmmakers made the cut.

One of the submissions comes from Linda J. Brown, Associate Professor and Head of the Cinematography track at SCA. Her latest documentary, You See Me, depicts her journey to reconnect with her parents while uncovering the painful secrets around her father’s violent past after he has a stroke.

“Most families have secrets and scars,” explained Brown. “I wanted to look at my family's painful experiences in order to understand and heal from them.”

Making the film allowed her to gain a fuller understanding of her mother and father as virtuous but flawed individuals. The process forced her to confront illness and death, but also the power of forgiveness.

Festival organizers expect to draw more than 10,000 guests, and although she waited for the green light from her family members, Brown concedes that she is a little nervous about the screening of her film, which shines a bright light on what was previously a very private family matter.

“While shooting and editing, I struggled with how much of my father's past and my family's secrets to include in the film. I was careful not to overstep the bounds of propriety, knowing that revealing this information is a big responsibility,” added Brown. “I've worked on the film for so many years, I became comfortable with the fact that it's so personal.”

You See Me is one of fourteen in the documentary category. Overall, more than 100 films and music videos will be screened during the course of the 11-day festival.

“Dances With Films this year has selected three shorts, two feature documentaries, and six narrative features created by USC students or alumni,” said Sandrine Cassidy, Senior Director of Festivals and Distribution at SCA. “There is such a great panel of talent that comes out of USC. We are very proud of all of them and their achievements.”

That the festival features such diverse offerings represents a departure from the original version of Dances With Films. Founded in 1998, the name pokes fun at the “dance” (Sundance, Slamdance, Digidance, etc.) film festival craze that was sweeping the nation at the time. In its original incarnation, screenings only included narrative features and shorts. Although the criteria have changed over time to allow for a wider range of submissions, the festival’s commitment to independent filmmakers and aversion to political decision-making remain unchanged.

In a post addressing the festival’s mission statement on its official website, organizers note that “with the ever increasing supply of low budget projects and the independent film scene at a record high, there has never been a more ripe time for a return to the basics.” This principle touches on some of what You See Me represents for director Linda J. Brown.

“It’s really about beginnings, hope, and how opportune things can happen when least expected,” Brown said. “I see the film as the start of a conversation that attempts to face the past with candor and courage in order to change the future.”

Dances With Films will take place from May 28–June 7, 2015, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Go to for more details about tickets and a complete list of show times.

Here is a list of all the USC-affiliated films to be screened at the festival:

A Year and Change
Echo Lake
The Aftermath
Bad Exorcists
Dig Two Graves

You See Me
Alive To Possibility

Guest Room
Luna and Lars