Books, Film, and Music

New works from Duke alumni and faculty members


Garbage Can-Can

When choreographer Allison Orr approached a group of Austin, Texas, trash collectors about creating a dance performance, she was met with silence and skepticism. A year later, on an abandoned airport runway, two dozen workers and a fleet of trucks—accompanied by a live music combo—presented a spectacle of sound and movement for an audience of more than 2,000 people.

[Photo above by Andrew Garrison] 

Director Andrew Garrison chronicled the unlikely collaboration in Trash Dance, which won the Audience Award at the 2012 Full Frame Film Festival, held in downtown Durham in April. Now in its fifteenth year, the festival is presented by Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies and attracts cinephiles from around

the world for four days of morning-to-midnight programming. Special Flight, a Swiss film directed by Fernand Melgar, won the festival’s top jury prize.

SCREEN TIME: Actor Segun Akande ’07

Segun Akande got his first standing ovation for a dramatic monologue he delivered at summer camp. But as a varsity running back at Duke, he didn’t have much opportunity to pursue his interest in acting. Now, he’s making up for lost time. He’s racked up credits in commercials, film, theater, and music videos.

[Segun Akande]


Akande’s next big project is the film One Night in Brooklyn, now in preproduction. It focuses on a tight-knit group of recent college graduates living in Brooklyn. Akande plays Capital H, an ambitious rapper whose drive to succeed threatens to eclipse his personal relationships. He’s also been shortlisted for a lead role in a major Hollywood film and a CBS prime time show. 

STARTING OVER: Filmmaker Sabrina Lee ’91

Retired Marine Colonel Eric Hastings came back from Vietnam haunted by the experience. He found solace and healing through fly-fishing in the trout streams of Montana. Not Yet Begun to Fight, the latest documentary by producer/director Sabrina Lee, follows Hastings as he reaches out to a new generation of young men returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Setting the scene: Producer/director Lee, left, and director/editor Shasta Grenier in Paradise Valley  [Matt Arkens]


“We’ve taken a subject that’s very politically charged—the nature of war— and presented something that’s not political, controversial, or polarizing,” says Lee. “We’re telling an intimate story about the human costs of war—post-traumatic stress disorder, the loss of identity and masculinity, having to start over, and the physical challenges of combat-related injuries.”

The film debuted at the Atlanta Film Festival in March, won the Audience Award at the Florida Film Festival, and is making the rounds of the independent film festival circuit. Lee’s previous documentary, Where You From, a featurelength film about rural rap, was acquired by IndiePix films in 2009.

HOOPS HISTORY: Filmmakers Amy Unell ’03 and Madeleine Sackler ’05

In this day of one-and-done athletes and win-at-any-cost athletics programs (we’re looking at you, John Calipari), the documentary Duke 91&92: Back to Back is a bittersweet reminder of what the sport of college basketball has lost. It seems unimaginable that a basketball team will ever again have players who stick around for four years and coalesce into a squad with a deep history of shared experiences. The film, produced and directed by Amy Unell and Madeleine Sackler, follows the Blue Devil teams that overcame skeptics, setbacks, and internal squabbles on the way to winning two national championships. The filmmakers intersperse historical footage—The Shot!—with present-day interviews with Grant Hill ’94, Christian Laettner ’92, Bobby Hurley ’93, and Coach K, among others.


  • Fusion/avant-garde/jazz guitarist Lawson Rollins ’92 possesses a world-music sensibility and high-speed fingerpick guitar style that has garnered him critical acclaim, Billboard hits, and millions of YouTube fans. His new album, Elevation, was recorded in Nepal, theU.S., and Iran, and contains thirteen international, genre-crossing soundscapes. Contributors include Persian-American musician Shahin Shahida, multi-platinum producer Dominic Camardella, avant-garde guitarist Buckethead, Nepali flute star Ruben Shrestha, tabla master Raju Maharjan, and Grammy-winning violinist Charlie Bishara
  • The X-Teens were among North Carolina’s leading New Wave/pop bands in the 1980s. Despite giving up the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle when the band broke up in 1987, keyboardist and songwriter Todd Jones ’80 never stopped playing music. On his latest CD, Mister Sensitive, Jones’ trademark smart-aleck pop/rock compositions range from the sublime (“How I Want to Die”) to the ridiculous (“My Pet Tapeworm.”) (Jones is married to Duke Magazine’s Bridget Booher.)


  • Washington Food Artisans (Sasquatch Books) by Leora Bloom ’89. Bloom has worked in restaurants in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco and runs her own bakery in Bellevue, Washington. Her culinary love letter to her home state includes profiles of seventeen food artisans who are producing wine, cheese, lavender, honey, meat, and fruit. Guaranteed to whet your appetite, the book also includes gorgeous photography and fifty recipes, inspired by the farmers’ products, by some of Washington’s leading chefs.
  • Birds of Lesser Paradise (Scribner) by Megan Mayhew Bergman A.M. ’07. Bergman lives on a farm in Vermont with her veterinarian husband, two young daughters, and a menagerie of animals. In her debut book of short stories—some of which have appeared previously in Best American Short Stories and New Stories from the South—Bergman draws from personal experience to craft poignant tales of familial love and loss, and the untamed beauty of the natural world. A former fiction scholar at Breadloaf, she teaches literature at Bennington College.


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