Humanities Institute

Controversy and Conversation

Controversy and Conversation Co-Sponsored Community Program






Our Controversy & Conversation film series is a partnership between the Humanities Institute of the University of Texas at Austin and the Austin Public Library. On the first Tuesday of each month, an award-winning documentary film on a controversial social topic of the day is screened at the Terrazas Branch of the Austin Public Library and is followed by a community discussion of the issue. Directors of the documentaries and community leaders are frequently present to participate in the discussion and answer questions. The Humanities Institute features blog posts related to past and upcoming films and the Austin Public Library hosts interviews on its Controversy & Conversation series of its podcast Volumes. Below is a list of current and past film screenings.

Current Film Screenings

Fall 2021

Please note that this season's screenings and conversations will take place virtually. We are still deciding on later films, please check back for more information at a later date.

(Virtual Screening) September 7th: Coded Bias (2008) dir. Shalini Kantayya, discussant: Dr. Craig Watkins

(Virtual Screening) October 5th: A Reckoning in Boston (2020) dir. James Rutenbeck, Discussant: TBD

(Virtual Screening) November 2nd: Gather (2020) dir. Sanjay Rawal, Discussant: Hi'ilei Hobart

(Virtual Screening) December 7th: American Factory (2019) dirs.  Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, Discussant: Alex Beasley


Controversy and Conversation Resources

Staff from the Terrazas Branch of APL create a list of resources for each of the films we discuss. Find links to those lists here.

Resource ListAmerican Factory (Dec 2021)

Resource ListGather (Nov 2021)

Resource ListA Reckoning in Boston (Oct 2021)

Resource ListCoded Bias (Sept 2021)

Resource ListDisclosure (Aug 2021)

Resource List: Requiem for the American Dream (July 2021)

Resource ListAnita: Speaking Truth to Power (June 2021)

Resource List: An American Ascent (May 2021)

Resource ListThe Apple Pushers (April 2021)

Resource ListCompany Town (March 2021)

Resource ListThe Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (Feb 2021)

Resource ListTrinidad (Jan 2021)

Resource ListBorder South (Dec 2020)

Resource ListCrip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Nov 2020)

Resource ListWhat is Democracy? (Oct 2020)

Resource List13th (Sept 2020)


Past Film Screenings

Spring/Summer 2021

Please note that this season's screenings and conversations will take place virtually. For instructions on how to view the films and to register to join the Zoom discussions, please visit the Spring 2021 Controvery & Conversation webpage. (It will be updated monthly.)

(Virtual Screening) January 7th: Trinidad (2008) dirs. PJ Raval and Jay Hodges, discussant: PJ Raval 

(Virtual Screening) February 4th: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015) dir. Stanley Nelson, Jr., discussant: TBD

(Virtual Screening) March 4th: Company Town (2016) dirs. Natalie Kottke and Erica Sardarian, discussant: TBD

(Virtual Screening) April 1st: The Apple Pushers (2012) dir. Mary Mazzio, discussant: TBD

(Virtual Screening) May 6th: An American Ascent (2014) dirs. George Potter and Andrew Adkins, discussant: Starla Simmons

(Virtual Screening) June 3rd: Anita: Speaking Truth to Power (2014) dir. Frieda Lee Mock, discussant: Traci-Ann Wint

(Virtual Screening) July 1st: Requiem for the American Dream (2015) dirs. Jared P. Scott, Peter D. Hutchison, and Kelly Nyks, discussant: Robert Jensen

(Virtual Screening) August 5th: Disclosure (2020) dir. Sam Feder, discussant Gin Pham

Summer / Fall 2020

Please note that this season's screenings and conversations will take place virtually. For instructions on how to view the films and to register to join the Zoom discussions, please visit the Summer / Fall 2020 Controvery & Conversation webpage. (It will be updated monthly.)

(Virtual Screening) August 6th: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019) dir. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, discussant: Dr. Helena Woodard from UT English

(Virtual Screening) September 3rd: 13th (2016) dir. Ava DuVernay, discussant: Dr. Peniel Joseph from UT Public Affairs, History and Center for the Study of Race and Democracy

(Virtual Screening) October 1st: What is Democracy? (2018) dir. Astra Taylor, discussant: Dr. Jeremi Suri from UT Public Affairs and History

(Virtual Screening) November 5th: Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020) dirs. Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, discussant: Dr. Alison Kafer

(Virtual Screening) December 3rd: Border South (2019) dir. RaúPaz Pastrana, discussant: Raúl Paz Pastrana

Spring 2020

(Virtual Screening) Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things (2016) dir. Matt D'Avella, discussants: Ashlee Bushee, Doran Kim, Anai Moreno, and Megan Schuetz from Fashion Anonymous 

Reversing Roe (2018) dirs. Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, discussant: Dr. Lauren Thaxton from Women's Health at Dell Medical School

I Am Not Your Negro (2016) dir. Raoul Peck, discussant: Dr. Jennifer Wilks from UT English and African and African Diaspora Studies


RiverBlue (2017) dirs. David McIlvride and Roger Williams

Building the American Dream (2019) dir. Chelsea Hernandez

Trinidad (2008) dir. Jay Hodges and PJ Raval 

Summer / Fall 2019

The Bleeding Edge (2018) dir. Kirby Dick, discussant: Lisa McGiffert from Patient Safety Action Network

The River and the Wall (2019) dir. Ben Masters, discussant: HI Director, Pauline Strong

Getting Back to Abnormal (2013) dir. Paul Stekler, Andrew Kolker, Louis Alvarez, Peter Odabashian, discussant: Dr. Paul Stekler from UT Radio-Television-Film and film maker

Merchants of Doubt (2014) dir. Robert Kenner, discussant: Dr. Kerry Cook from UT's Department of Geological Sciences

Before the Flood (2016) dir. Fisher Stevens, discussant: Dr. Jonathan Lowell from UT's Planet Texas 2050  

Spring 2019

Dark Money (2018) dir. Kimberly Reed, discussant: Amanda Gnaedinger for Common Cause Texas

Icarus (2017) dir. Bryan Fogel, discussant: Dr. John Hoberman from UT Department of Germanic Studies

Wasted! The Story of Food Waste (2017) dirs. Anna Chai and Nari Kye, discussant: Lisa Barden from Keep Austin Fed

Human Flow (2017) dir. Ai Weiwei, discussants: Nishtha Jain from UT Department of Radio-Television-Film and Susan Stasney from Refugees Services of Texas

The Central Park Five (2012) dir. Ken Burns, discussant: Andrea Marsh, UT School of Law

Summer / Fall 2018

Cartel Land (2015) dir. Matthew Heineman, discussant: Dr. Jake Dizard, Mexico Security Initiative, UT Strauss Center for International Security and Law

Nobody Speak (2017) dir. Brian Knappenberger, discussants: Richard Whittaker from The Austin Chronicle and Martin Riedl from the UT School of Journalism

Do Not Resist (2016) dir. Craig Atkinson, discussant: Gabriel Solis from Texas After Violence

Vessel (2014) dir. Diana Whitten, discussant: Heather Busby from Circle of Hope International

Documented (2013) dir. Jose Antonio Vargas, discussant: Robert Painter from American Gateways

Trashed (2012) dir. Candida Brady, discussant Memi Cardenas from Austin Resource Recovery

Spring 2018

Private Violence (2014) dir. Cynthia Hill, discussant: Maisha Barrett from  SAFE Austin

Zero Days (2016) dir. Alex Gibney

Meth Storm (2017) dirs. Craig Renaud and Brent Renaud, discussant: Dr. Steve Powell from Seton Medical Center

Whose Streets? (2017) dir. Sabaah Folayan, discussant: Sukyi McMahon from Austin Justice Coalition

Water & Power: A California Heist (2017) dir. Marina Zenovich

Summer / Fall 2017

The Return (2016) dirs. Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway

Killswitch (2014) Ali Akbarzadeh, discussants: Kevin Welch from Electronic Frontier Foundation-Austin and Dr. Philip Doty from the UT School of Information

It Happened Here (2014) dir. Lisa F. Jackson, discussants: Breall Baccus from UT’s Title IX Office and Amanda Lewis from Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA)

The Divide (2015) dir. Katharine Round, discussant: Dr. Bob Jensen from the UT School of Journalism

Above All Else (2014) dir.and discussant John Fiege 

Spring 2017

DamNation (2014) dir. Travis Rummel and Ben Knight

Code Black (2014) dir. Ryan McGarry, discussant: Dr. Ted Held from People’s Community Clinic 

How to Change the World (2015) dir. Jerry Rothwell, disscusants: David Lyon from the Environmental Defense Fund Oil & Gas and Dave Cortez from the Sierra Club 

Starving the Beast (2016) dir. and discussant Steve Mims

Southwest of Salem (2016) dir. and discussant Deborah Esquenazi

How to Die in Oregon (2011) dir. Peter Richardson, discussant: Cindy Merrill 

Summer / Fall 2016

GTFO (2015) dir. Shannon Sun-Higginson

Under the Stack dir. and discussants Anne Fischel and Lin Nelson

True Cost (2015) dir. Andrew Morgan

Gerrymandering (2010) dir. Jeff Reichert  

Just Gender (2013) dir. George Zuber

Trapped (2016) dir. Dawn Porter 

Spring 2016

The House I Live In (2012) dir. Eugene Jarecki

Merchants of Doubt (2014) dir. Robert Kenner

Sushi, The Global Catch (2011) dir. Mark Hall

Whose Is This Song? (2003) dir. Adela Peevla

Before You Know It (2013) dir. and discussant PJ Raval

Peace Officer (2015) dir. Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson

Fall 2015

This Changes Everything (2015) dir. Avi Lewis, discussant: Naomi Klein author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

No Sanctuary: Big Business and Family Detention (2014) dir. Matthew Gossage

Shadows of Liberty (2012) dir. Jean-Phillippe Tremblay

Triple Divide (2015) dir. Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman

The Homestretch (2014) dir. Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly 

Spring / Summer 2015

At the Death House Door (2008) dir. Peter Gilbert and Steve James

Forks Over Knives (2011) dir. Lee Fulkerson

Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013) dir. Cullen Hoback

Beyond Pollution (2012) dir. Barker White

Inequality For All (2013) dir. Jacob Kornbluth

Blue Gold: World Water Wars (2008) dir. Samuel Vartek


Due to the ongoing Covid situation, we will continue to host our film conversations virtually.

"Thank you for making excellent choices in documentaries to get me thinking! They are so worthwhile and thought-provoking." - C&C Participant

"I enjoyed the conversation at the end. I'm not one to speak up but it was nice hearing ideas from different people." - C&C Participant

Click here for this month's Controversy & Conversation Resource List

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