Introducing the MFA|EDA Class of 2023

Please join us in welcoming the incoming Class of 2023 cohort of Duke University MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts.


Laura Asherman
Laura Asherman is a documentary filmmaker and sculptor based in the US South. Laura’s practice stems from an endless curiosity about the human condition, which is guided by the principle that personal stories ignite social change. Through her production company, Forage Films, Laura has worked as a cinematographer on productions for VICE, HBO, and CNN, and directed the award-winning films American Hasi (2019), The Home Team (2019), and Power Lines (2018). She has worked extensively in East Africa, Latin America and Asia.


Yasaman Baghban
Born in 1988, Yasaman Baghban grew up in Shiraz, Iran. She graduated from Shiraz University in the field of chemical engineering, but Art has changed the path of her life. After taking filmmaking and photography courses, she decided to pursue her education in Visual Media Arts. She got her MA in Cinema from Tehran University of Art in 2018. She is a lecturer and simultaneously an independent documentary filmmaker.

Essay films, video arts, photography, multimedia studies and academic research are among her interests. The integration of time and memory with the concept of immigration and exile as well as , feminism, human rights, the Middle East conflicts, life and death are her concerns. You can find some of her projects here:

Simone Barros
Born in Atlanta, Simone has screened her short films and soundscapes in festivals and arts venues in New York and Cleveland after graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts receiving the Martin Scorsese Filmmaker Grant and Tisch Dean Craft Award. Simone worked postproduction for filmmakers: Judith Helfand, Ric Burns, Sam Pollard and Spike Lee. The Cleveland Public Theater produced Simone’s two short plays, staged reading of her full-length play Dating Godfrey and produced Simone’s soundscape composition for dance, A Wind Blows from the South.

Arts Cleveland awarded Simone a Creative Workforce Fellowship to create the short experimental documentary, What Remains, a cinematic study of memory and history as collective memory. As an audiobook director, Simone has directed works by acclaimed authors including Charlie Kaufman, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jacqueline Woodson and Ibram X. Kendi. Unexpectedly embarking on a teaching career at Pratt Institute, Cleveland Institute of Art and Cuyahoga Community College intensely transformed Simone’s filmmaking practice.

In Duke’s Experimental and Documentary MFA program, Simone eagerly joins artists, thinkers and practitioners of expended artforms that capture and convey diverse voices and experiences and she learns from her professors and classmates alike.


Marie-Louise Bennett
Marie-Louise Bennett is a multi-disciplinary visual artist based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Born in South Africa in 1981, she immigrated to the United States at the age of 14. She earned her Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech in 2004 and spent the better part of a decade pursuing sustainable practices in the design of schools, residences, and research laboratories.

In 2012 she became a mother. This seismic life change prompted her to re-evaluate her personal and professional ambitions. She returned to her true passion – visual art. Since then, her paintings and installations have been included in multiple juried exhibitions, including the 2020 North Carolina Artists Exhibition at CAM Raleigh. Her interactive public installation, The Empathy Project – Who(m) Do You See?, has appeared in several locations in Raleigh, including the North Carolina Legislative Building and Raleigh Union Station plaza.

Marie-Louise approaches her practice with questions about how we see ourselves and others. She is interested in the embodied record of experience, the construction of identities, the conundrum of “passing”, immigration, parenthood, childhood, and memory. She explores the intersections of self and other, vulnerability and resilience, transience and permanence, and the physical and the intangible. Her work is a call for the recognition of our shared humanity and interdependence, and an invitation to engage in continual and fearless self-reflection.


Vitoria Bitencourt
Vit Bitencourt was born in 1997 and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic where she focused her studies on photography and documentary video. While in college, she served as curator and student director of the Ethel H. Blum Gallery, in Bar Harbor, Maine. Following graduation, she worked as a curatorial assistant for photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on the exhibition Welcome Home: A Portrait of East Baltimore, 1975-1980. Vit is interested in creating human documents.Her research and practice revolve around photographers’ portraits of their partners, personal film essays, and autobiographical zines.


Madison Cavalchire
Madison Cavalchire is a North Carolina native, born and raised in Raleigh. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Madison started her career as a television news reporter. During her four years as a journalist, Madison covered everything from natural disasters and elections, to breaking news and cold case mysteries. It was those experiences that sparked Madison’s passion for documenting the world around her. Having worked in TV, Madison knows just how powerful good storytelling can be. A compelling story can promote understanding among neighbors, find resolution to a community issue and even bring victims long-awaited justice. Before coming 10 miles down the road to our “darker shade of blue,” Madison was most recently back at her alma mater teaching video storytelling and web design at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Madison is excited for the opportunity to continue telling impactful stories through film and photography in the place she grew up.


Sherly Fan
Sherly (Danqiong) Fan is born and raised in Wuhan, China. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Textile and Fashion Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an Associate’s degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology. After graduation from college, she worked in the New York fashion industry for a year. Originally viewing fashion as a form of everyday sculpture, she explores the fashion field to express herself, inspire others, and make a difference. Now she has expanded her art practice to include different mediums, and she aims to develop a unique point of aesthetics driven by innovation and take the responsibility to address social issues.


Gabriela Glueck
Gabriela Glueck recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in History and German and a minor in Art & Design. Inspired by her academic work focusing on German and Eastern European History, Gabriela has developed a strong interest in examining authoritarian regimes and agents of revolutionary resistance. In her Honors History Thesis, entitled Chernobyl and the German Democratic Republic: How the Structure of East German Environmentalism Came to Inform the Peaceful Protests, Gabriela explored these themes in the repressive context of East Germany. Working towards her MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts, Gabriela strives to redirect her academic scholarship into the arena of public discourse in a journalistic capacity. By employing the potency of audio-visual media, she seeks to translate complex stories into a medium of utmost accessibility.


Madison Hill
Madison was born in Texas and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received her undergraduate degree in Cinema Studies from Virginia Tech where she became involved in environmental grassroots organizing and discovered the need for documentary filmmaking in grassroots resistance. In 2018, she completed her first documentary Resistance in the Valley which followed anti-pipeline activism in Appalachia as students and local communities combated the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. Madison has since been living in Florence, Italy and is working in the field of emerging media and installation art. Through her work in environmental filmmaking and emerging media, she seeks a new way to document the present devastating effects of climate change on rural and impoverished communities.


Vann Powell
Vann Thomas Powell is a photographer based in Durham, N.C. A native North Carolinian, Vann received his BA in Philosophy from Appalachian State University.  Immediately following his undergraduate studies, Vann moved abroad, where he lived and worked in Prague, CZ, and Seoul, ROK, for six years collectively. Vann’s work focuses on the relationship between past and place, paying close attention to how the two help formulate identity.  Vann has exhibited work across the United States and has also been featured in domestic and international publications.


Maddie Stambler
Maddie Stambler was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a graduate of Duke University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in 2017 in a self-designed major entitled “Storytelling: History, Theory, Ethics, and Practice.” After graduating from Duke, Maddie moved to Los Angeles where she worked at Tripod Media as a production assistant on Ask Dr. Ruth (2019) and Assassins (2020) and as a production associate on the five-part Apple TV+ docuseries Visible: Out on Television (2020). Maddie also worked as an archival coordinator at Supper Club on the Disney+ documentary Wolfgang (2021).

In the spring of 2021, Maddie premiered her documentary short film Who Fights For You? at the Cleveland International Film Festival. The film is about her childhood best friend who is an African American pastor with cerebral palsy. Maddie is interested in probing questions of memory, perspective, and interpretation by exploring the role that archival materials play in documentary work.


Juan Velazquez
Born in Mexico City, 1981. Juan L. Velazquez holds a BA in Communication Sciences and in addition a degree in Photography. Because of his family, education and work he grew up “neither here nor there”, in a liminal state in between the contexts of urban/rural-communities, capital/border-cities, core/periphery-nations.For over a decade JL has worked in Mexico with the moving image through Film & Cultural Management and as an independent camerographer. With his creative practice he pursues to question the mechanism of perception and representation operated in the tradition of visual documentation by exploring the transient human relationship with the natural world.


Charley Watson
Born and raised in Orange County, California, Charles Watson studied Creative Nonfiction filmmaking at Cal State Long Beach, where two of his undergraduate shorts won state-wide awards at the CSU Media Arts Festival. Upon graduation in 2018, Charles worked in Los Angeles on several projects, including a Netflix-produced documentary about the end of Orson Welles’ life, and a four-part series for PBS on the history of aerospace in Southern California. Drawing from the experiences gained in crafting traditional, archival-based projects, Charles aims to bridge the gap between cultural analysis and personal expression. His multimedia style and intimate approach to portraiture strive to create an experience that is both cerebral and emotionally resonant. Beyond the lens, Charles also finds inspiration from nature, music, literature and cuisine, and how each is woven into our unique perceptions of beauty and human compassion.

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