Laura Waters Hinson, American University School of Communication (AU SOC) professor joins host Grace Ibrahim to talk about the real stories told through documentary film. Hinson, who like Ibrahim is an SOC alumna, opens up about her passion for storytelling and the nuances of capturing reality. She has an extensive background in the film world. Her first feature documentary, As We Forgive, which she made as a student in SOC’s MFA film program, is about Rwanda's reconciliation movement, and it won the 2008 Student Academy Award for Best Documentary, the Cinema for Peace Award in Berlin, and was broadcasted nationally on public television.
When asked about what drew her to documentary filmmaking, Hinson explained that “story has always been the driving factor.” Hinson often teaches her students about the power of a narrative and how it can be used to make sense of the things we seldom understand. “You put it together in a narrative and there's a meaning at the end. And I think we all sort of crave that meaning out of the chaos,” she said.
When planning out her films, Hinson considers how she wishes to communicate her vision with her audience.
She notes that it’s a very hands-on process that requires a team to all be on the same page about what the intended message is in order to make the film come to life.
One of Hinson’s recent films, Street Reporter, has won acclaim on the film festival circuit. The film tells the story of Shelia White, who is a reporter for Street Sense, a homeless-led media organization based in DC. The film was screened in Palm Springs, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and Austin Film. It has won numerous awards and was featured earlier this year by Variety magazine as a contender for receiving a nomination for Best Documentary Short in the 2023 Oscars.
Outside of creating her own documentaries, Hinson is an essential member of the SOC film and media arts community and enjoys helping students find their passions by facilitating spaces where they can put ideas into action. She serves as the division social impact coordinator and director of the Community Voice Lab, which partners AU student filmmakers with DC-based nonprofits to produce a short film series capturing voices of marginalized DC community residents.