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Brian Ekdale and children in village of Bangula, Malawi
Children in the village of Bangula, Malawi gather to see images of themselves in the flipscreen of Brian Ekdale's video camera. Ekdale, an NIU alumnus, will screen his documentary, "10 Days in Malawi" during the Reality Bytes film fest.

Photo by Greg Ekdale

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News Release

Contact: Laura Vazquez, Festival Director/Communication Professor
(815) 753-7132

March 20, 2006

Reality Bytes film festival will feature
works by NIU students, alumni

DeKalb, Ill. — The Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University will host Reality Bytes, a student documentary film festival, from Friday, March 31, to Monday, April 3.

Admission is free and open to the public for all events, which will include screenings of student and alumni documentaries, as well as a music-video competition.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to screen their work before a public audience,” said Laura Vazquez, a professor of communication and director of the festival. “We expect as many as 200 people for some of the events.”

Student documentary screenings will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, March 31, in Room 204 of DuSable Hall. Winning films will be selected in three categories: historical, biographical and social issues. Following the screenings, winning filmmakers will be honored during an awards ceremony.

Documentaries produced by alumni Marcus Leshock and Brian Ekdale, who both earned their master's degrees in communication last year, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1, in Room 100 of the Art Building.

Leshock will screen “Mark Twain and the American Steamboat,” a documentary produced in conjunction with Founders Memorial Library's Mark Twain Digitization project, headed up by Drew VandeCreek. The film features interviews with some of the nation's top Twain scholars.

“The documentary takes a fast-paced, hip approach to revealing how Samuel Clemens' work as a steamboat pilot influenced his take on life, his writing and his family,” said Leshock, who is now working as a reporter and associate producer for CLTV's daily metromix entertainment program.

Ekdale's documentary, “10 Days in Malawi,” is a first-person account of the filmmaker's experiences working at an aid camp in Malawi, an African nation plagued by poverty and the AIDS/HIV pandemic. The film, which was part of Ekdale's senior thesis, won the Best Student Documentary prize and a cash award of $1,000 at Kean University's Purple Violet Film Festival in October.

Ekdale is now working at Waubonsee Community College and will be pursuing his Ph.D. in the fall.

“The area I'll be studying is international mass communication focusing on issues related to Africa,” he said. “After the experience I had in Malawi, I decided that I really wanted to keep focusing on the developing areas of the African continent and to create a positive influence and impact in that area with my teaching and research.”

The final Reality Bytes event is a music video competition. It will be held at 8:45 p.m. Monday, April 3, in the Diversions Lounge of Holmes Student Center. NIU Department of Communication alum Bill Weinman will judge the student-produced music videos.

An established film and sound editor, Weinman has worked on a variety of well-known projects, including “VH1 Behind the Music,” “Shawshank Redemption” and “The Fugitive.” He also produced and edited the documentaries, “The String Cheese Incident” and “Pura Vida & Evolution.”

For additional information on the film festival, visit or email Professor Laura Vazquez at