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The recent surge in popularity of documentary films is far from over, says associate professor of TV-R and media artist Mara Alper. “As news programming becomes briefer and more entertainment-oriented, people eager for deeper insights will seek documentaries to give them missing information.”

For the past eight years, Alper has been preparing Ithaca College students for careers in this increasingly popular—and important—field. She teaches motion graphics and animation courses as well as video field production courses and is continually impressed with the motivation of her students and the connections they make with the Ithaca community.

Much of Alper’s own work is in documentaries, video art, and gallery installations that focus on social issues, ancient traditions, and people’s similarities, differences, and motivations.

  Huichol man from Alper's latest work

“I am drawn to subjects that touch on core experiences, the areas we tend to take for granted,” she says. “Through documentaries, I can draw attention to these themes with the hope that it will help us honor and acknowledge our shared humanity.”

Her piece Maria Mitchell: Explorer of the Stars, a biography of the first U.S. female astronomer and astronomy professor, led Alper to found the Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award. It is presented annually to a person who encourages girls and women to pursue careers in the sciences or technology. A story of childhood trauma and healing, Alper’s Stories No One Wants to Hear has screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Dallas Museum of Modern Art.

Forgiveness, the sequel to Stories . . . , explores psychological and philosophical perspectives surrounding the choice one makes about whether or not to forgive. It focuses on four individuals: a prisoner, a recovering alcoholic, a grieving mother, and renowned world leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

Alper is currently working on a documentary about the Mexican Huichol tribe and the challenges of preserving their traditional culture despite the pressures of a modern world.

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