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2018 Visual Culture Symposium Film Screening

Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Winner of the 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short


Wayne State University Student Center - Room 285

3 pm - 5 pm

Roundtable Discussion to follow



Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 is a 2016 documentary short film by director Frank Stiefel. The film is a portrait of a brilliant 56 year old artist who is represented by one of Los Angeles’ top galleries. Her body of raw, emotional work reveals a lifetime of extreme depression and anxiety.

Mindy Alper has suffered through electro shock therapy, multiple commitments to mental institutions and a 10-year period without speech. Her only consistent means of communicating has been to channel her hyper self-awareness into drawings and sculpture of powerful psychological clarity.

Through an examination of her work, interviews, reenactments, the building of an eight and a half foot papier-mache bust of her beloved psychiatrist, we learn how she has emerged from a life of darkness and isolation to a life that includes love, trust and laughter.

Roundtable Participants


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Professor renée c. hoogland

Dr. renée c. hoogland is a Professor in Literary and Cultural Studies. She is also the Editor of Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, as well as the Senior Editor in Chief of MacMillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks: Gender. She is the author of three books; her most recent work is A Violent Embrace (2014). She is the faculty organizer for the Visual Culture Student Group. 

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Distinguished Professor Melba Boyd

Dr. Melba Joyce Boyd is a Distinguished Professor in African American Studies and an award-winning author of 13 books, nine of which are poetry.  Boyd’s critically acclaimed and widely reviewed, Discarded Legacy: Politics and Poetics in the Life of Frances E. W. Harper, 1825-1911, was the first comprehensive study on Harper. Boyd’s poetry, essays and creative nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, academic journals, cultural periodicals and newspapers in the United States and Europe.


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Professor Dora Apel

Dr. Dora Apel is a Professor and W. Hawkins Ferry Endowed Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art History. She is the author of four books: Beautiful Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline; War Culture and the Contest of ImagesImagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob; and Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing; and co-author of Lynching Photographs, with Shawn Michelle Smith.

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Ph.D. Film Student Ella Tucan

Ella Tucan is a second year Ph.D. student in English, with a concentration in Film and Media Studies. She earned her M.A. at Georgia State University, where she taught film history, aesthetics, and analysis. Her work centers on affect theory, sensation and embodiment, with an emphasis on gender, the female body and sexuality.