March 6th, 2014

PDN Video Pick: Making an Award-Winning Story of One Woman’s Resilience

Sensei from ora on Vimeo.

Ora DeKornfeld, a communications major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, won first prize for her video “Sensei” in the Multimedia Feature category of the 2014 Pictures of the Year International competition. Brilliantly shot and edited, DeKornfeld’s video tells the powerful story of a rape victim’s survival, resilience and determination. DeKornfeld explains how she won her subject’s trust, found a way to portray events in the past through evocative imagery, and produced a tight, dramatic narrative.

PDN: What was this project was for? How did it get started?
Ora DeKornfeld: That project was made as a final documentary piece for a journalism class. The assignment was to make a vérité documentary. It was a challenge for us to [record] something actually happening, instead of fully relying on B-roll over interview audio. My professor [Chad Stevens] assigned the project knowing that was unrealistic, so this project deviated greatly from that initial assignment, but that’s how it started.

PDN: How did you find this subject, and how get her to open up?
OD: I went to this neighborhood in Durham (North Carolina)–a pretty dynamic low-income neighborhood, and I saw a flyer for self-defense classes and that’s something I have always been personally interested in, and I wanted to do a piece that touched on women’s issues. So I called the number and ended up talking to Brenda, the subject, and she was immediately open. She told me that the reason she got into martial arts was because she was a victim of a violent crime. I didn’t push that at the time, but it was an immediate indicator that she had a real deep experience that motivated her. So I said, would it be OK if I made a documentary about you? She was really open to it.
I went to her karate class on Tuesday and Saturday for two weeks, then I asked if I could come to her house, meet her family and start hanging out with her there. And I kind of just stayed until she said, “OK, Ora, you need to get out of my house.” But through that experience we bonded. (more…)