The Perfect Symbol for the World of Documentary Filmmaking

by Della Lowe


Raven awardThe raven is a mystical bird, revered in many cultures and with a multitude of characteristics attributed to it. Sometimes a god, sometimes a devil, always mysterious, this remarkable bird is known for its intelligence, strength, and endless curiosity. Throughout the world and over millennia, the mythology of the raven grew in disparate cultures.


“The DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival™ chose the raven as its symbol for much the same reasons that people throughout the centuries have been inspired by this bird,” said Phil Tuckett, Executive Director of DOCUTAH™, Director of the Digital Film Program, and Executive Director of DSU Films. “Documentary films bring the viewers to places they may never see and to emotions they can recognize as universal no matter where they live, no matter what their religion, no matter what their status.”  


Prescient, intelligent, sharing, strong – many characteristics of the raven mimic the breadth of human experience. In different myths, the raven signifies war, prosperity, famine, plenty, death, and life. The Tsimshaian from British Columbia and Alaska believe they were given light by the raven. “[The] Raven brings heightened awareness and a deeper understanding of our consciousness. Raven allows us to see into the hearts of others using our newly found perception, helping us to empathise (sic) with their feelings. The Raven encourages us to experience transformation, so that we can be reunited with the mysteries of the universe, and rid ourselves of our inner demons.” (Material licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License)


Jeff Ham, the renowned artist who created the original raven painting for DOCUTAH remarked, “The raven is a common fixture and a personality that characterizes the southwest desert we share as a community. It is an observer. Highly intelligent, it will watch and track coyotes, wolves, and bears, knowing that a feast of leftovers will likely be the result of its patient observation. Ravens watch everything and everyone and through that observation have learned how to thrive in all manner of environments and climates. Like the documentarian that chronicles and observes then enlightens us about ourselves through stories, I see the raven as the documentarian of the desert. The raven is a recognizable symbol of southern Utah and the art of observation.”


Documentary films can certainly help all of us understand the human condition and the links we have to one another as well as other creatures which inhabit Earth with us. This year DOCUTAH accepted 65 films representing 30 U.S. states and 20 countries. The films this year cover such intriguing subjects as:

  • A modern country with no military.
  • A devotee of a forgotten science called optography.
  • People who live in storm sewers underneath the streets of Las Vegas.
  • A tribute to the Breakfast Queen of Chicago.
  • An 85-year-old college student.
  • Young children training to run with the bulls of Spain.
  • Conservation and industry coexisting in Borneo.
  • An insanely popular comedy series; each episode 6 seconds long.
  • Mango trees saving the lives of young Indian girls.
  • A man obsessed with stealing NYC buses and subways then making all the correct stops.
  • A Baltimore beatbox rapper teaming up with Mongolian throat singers.
  • A politician who was Donald Trump long before Donald Trump was a politician.
  • A Canadian Catholic Christmas tree salesman selling his wares in a NYC Jewish neighborhood to atheists.
  • The owner of a crooked auto wrecking company who goes into hiding from the law dressed as a woman and decides he likes it.
  • Ghost towns of the American West seen through the eyes of a Frenchman.


“Each year, we think the films submitted could not possibly surpass the previous year and each year the quality astonishes us. It takes real passion to venture into the art of documentary, which is often a lonely pursuit in a world filled with commercialized studio films. That passion certainly shines through in this year’s selections,” said Tuckett. “The variety of subjects will bring audiences to places they have never known and allow them to experience a wide range of emotions from tears to laughter to inspiration to wonderment. Because of the central location of St. George, near Las Vegas and Mesquite, NV, the Festival attracts local, regional, and international attendees.”


“DOCUTAH is unique not only because it is a pure documentary festival, but also because it is university supported, which allows both visitors and students to have easy access to this art form,” said Dr. Jeffery Jarvis, Dean of The College of Arts at DSU. “No matter where the films originate, they seem able to strike a chord in audiences and help them relate to universal human experiences.”


DSU Announces Film Degree at College of the Arts

An exciting development announced in July is that the DSU College of the Arts will begin offering a new Bachelor of Science degree in digital film. Copy of mango girls 1Previously, students enrolled in the film program received their degree in communications with a specific emphasis. The university has acquired the 14,000 square foot hangar at the Ridge Top Complex in St. George, which will be utilized as a film studio. The hangar was turned over to the film program in July.

“Right now you could do a feature film in there,” said Tuckett. “It’s big enough, the ceiling’s high enough, plus there are six offices for all of our staff and three conference rooms. Classes will be taught in the hangar starting in the fall term and, within two years, the entire program will be based out of the building.”


The DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival is held at Dixie State University in Saint George, Utah. The 2016 Festival runs from September 6 -10 and includes a series of free intimate filmmaker chats, and special events. Tuckett is the founder of the DOCUTAH festival and a 30-year veteran of NFL Films, winning 30 Emmy Awards for his projects. He has also produced and directed numerous documentaries and music videos.


As part of Dixie State University’s academic component, DOCUTAH’s mission is to inspire a global connection through independent documentary films and audience access to filmmakers. DOCUTAH strives to enhance the education of independent filmmakers, aspiring film students, and citizens of the world.


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