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Wayne State media arts professor is named Best Female Director at Underexposed Film Festival for her autobiographical documentary exploring agoraphobia

February 5, 2014

DETROIT (Feb. 5, 2014) – Wayne State University Assistant Professor Kelly Donnellan, media arts and studies, Department of Communication, received the award Woman to Watch, Best Female Director at the 2013 Underexposed Film Festival of Rock Hill, SC, for her film titled I is Another.

The Underexposed Film Festival took place November 14–16, 2013, at the Community Performance Center of Rock Hill, SC, showcasing 39 films accepted into competition. The juried competition was open to independent filmmakers of all levels and featured narrative, documentary, animated and experimental films running 45 minutes or less.

I is Another is a personal essay shot by Donnellan over a six year period chronicling her struggles with agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder which makes life beyond her apartment especially difficult. The filmmaker confronts her fears head-on during the project, filming herself tackling the outside world and, at times, watching the world win. Undaunted, Donnellan soldiers on to small and big victories, demonstrating that the only thing to fear is fear itself.

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder in which a person fears being outside of the home alone, standing in line or being in a crowd, being in wide open spaces or enclosed spaces, or using public transportation. Agoraphobia often manifests itself in the form of panic attacks. It is treated via specific kinds of psychotherapy, usually cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as with certain medications.

“I undertook the project, as a personal essay film, as a way of combating my agoraphobia by chronicling my life over a six year period,” said Professor Donnellan. “In making the film I got to gradually confront the things that I was afraid of, like large spaces and crowds, and conquer those fears with my camera in hand. I think this is a good example of the power of film:  After this filmmaking experience, I can do things now that were literally impossible several years ago.” A clip of I is Another is available online at http://vimeo.com/66268497.

“Professor Donnellan’s work portrays years of experience and struggle and is an example of what her students learn in her classroom,” said Wayne State Department of Communication Chairperson, Lee Wilkins. “The film employs point of view, a technique that is used not only in documentary film but also in literary non-fiction and some forms of journalism.”

The winners of the 2013 Underexposed Film Festival were announced at an award ceremony that followed a final screening on Saturday, November 16. The festival’s complete list of winners is available online at http://yorkcountyarts.org.

The Department of Communication at Wayne State University is a division of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, offering programs in journalism and broadcast journalism, communication studies, dispute resolution, film, media arts and studies and public relations. Wayne State University, located in the heart of Detroit’s midtown cultural center, is a premier urban research institution offering 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to 28,000 students.

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