Critics are calling ‘Gavagai,’ a film made by two VCU professors, ‘extraordinary’ and one of the best films of the year

Andreas Lust looks out of a window, in a scene from Gavagai.

Andreas Lust, one of the stars of “Gavagai,” in a scene from the film.

When Rob Tregenza and Kirk Kjeldsen, filmmakers and Virginia Commonwealth University cinema professors, submitted their feature “Gavagai” to the top international film festivals, they were disappointed to be turned down. Tregenza’s first two films, “Talking to Strangers” and “The Arc,” had premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and his third, “Inside/Out,” had first appeared at the Cannes Film Festival. However, the film industry had changed in the years since the 1997 release of “Inside/Out,” and the largest festivals had become less likely to select independent films and more likely to latch onto more high-profile movies with boldfaced names attached. “Gavagai,” which was shot in Norway, starred three accomplished performers with acclaimed roles to their credit and each of Tregenza’s three previous films had been praised by critics, but the film lacked box-office cachet.

“Gavagai” eventually was selected to premiere at the Maine International Film Festival, but Tregenza and Kjeldsen worried about finding a distributor and getting their film — one they were proud of — in front of audiences. Then Richard Brody, an influential film critic for The New Yorker, learned through Twitter that Tregenza had a new film completed. Brody had written admirably of Tregenza’s previous works, and he asked to see “Gavagai.” Tregenza and Kjeldsen hoped for a short, positive write-up that might give the film a boost.

An editor sent Kjeldsen a link when the review was posted. As soon as he read it, Kjeldsen, who lives in Germany and teaches online much of the year, knew Tregenza needed to hear it. They connected over Skype and Kjeldsen read it aloud to Tregenza. Together, they savored every word.

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VCU schools of the Arts and Medicine launch physician-scientist-in-residence program

April 24, 2015, 23rd WISDM Leadership Conference_John E. Nestler

John E. Nestler, M.D., the first physician-scientist-in-residence at the VCU School of the Arts.

John E. Nestler, M.D. (H.S.’80/M; H.S.’83/M; H.S.’86/M), has been named the inaugural physician-scientist-in-residence at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. Former chair of VCU’s Department of Internal Medicine in the School of Medicine and a member of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Nestler will bring his in-depth knowledge of medical science, the local medical environment and clinical research to the School of the Arts.

The physician-scientist-in-residence program, one of the first residencies of its kind in an arts school, is part of an ongoing collaboration between the School of the Arts and the School of Medicine to help improve medical education and advance the clinical health and well-being in the community by addressing and solving problems through art and design.

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In ‘Gay, Inc.,’ VCU professor shows how nonprofit sphere’s expansion has helped — and hindered — the LGBTQIA+ cause

Myrl Beam next to the cover for Gay, Inc.

In “Gay, Inc.: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics,” Myrl Beam relies on oral histories, archival research and his own activist work to explore how LGBT nonprofits are grappling with the contradictions between radical queer social movements and their institutionalized iterations.

The conservative turn in queer movement politics is due mostly to the movement’s embrace of the nonprofit structure, argues a new book by Myrl Beam, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

In “Gay, Inc.: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics,” Beam relies on oral histories, archival research and his own activist work to explore how LGBT nonprofits in Minneapolis and Chicago are grappling with the contradictions between radical queer social movements and their institutionalized iterations.

Beam discussed his new book, which was published by the University of Minnesota Press, with VCU News.

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‘Hey Google, tell me something good.’ Google Creative Lab taps a VCU journalism professor’s research to share good news stories

White background with the words "Hey Google, tell me something good"

Thanks in part to the research of a VCU journalism professor, the Google Assistant is able to tell users about good news stories happening in the world.

With the Google Assistant, users can search the internet, schedule meetings, set alarms, send texts, play music, dim lights and a long list of other tasks.

And now — thanks in part to the research of a Virginia Commonwealth University journalism professor — the Google Assistant is able to tell users about good news stories happening in the world.

After a recent update, users can say, “Hey Google, tell me something good,” and the Google Assistant will read a two- or three-sentence news summary from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization that aims to expose people to news stories that help them understand problems and challenges, and show them potential ways to respond.

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Forensic science professor joins steering committee of Science and Human Rights Coalition

 

Researchers identifying human remains at a grave site.

Tal Simmons, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Forensic Science, has helped to lead projects documenting and identifying human remains in the former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Tal Simmons, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Forensic Science in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has been appointed to the steering committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science and Human Rights Coalition, a network of scientific and engineering membership organizations that recognize a role for scientists and engineers in human rights.

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Words from the wise: Five longtime professors reflect on their 20-plus years of teaching at VCU

Headshots of five VCU professors against a blue background.Have you ever taken a class with a professor who taught one of your parents? With more than 2,300 full-time faculty members at Virginia Commonwealth University, including many who have been here for several decades, that scenario does happen on occasion.

We asked five professors who have two decades or more of VCU teaching experience to share their experiences, favorite moments and lessons learned throughout the years.

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