DESERT OF THE REAL explores the denaturing of American childhood and the unexpected consequences of immersing young minds in the virtual realm. Part film essay, part vérité study, the narrative interleaves provocative interviews with imaginative thinkers on topics such as child development and the re-patterning power of screens with scenes from a boyhood ages 3 to 13.
About the Filmmakers
Laura Dunn – Director, Producer, Editor
Laura Dunn started making documentaries in response to her undergraduate experience at Yale University. Through a chronicle of labor strikes on campus, THE SUBTEXT OF A YALE EDUCATION examines the corporatization of higher education. Other work includes GREEN, a sobering look at environmental racism along the Mississippi River petrochemical corridor and BECOME THE SKY, an ecological map of power in Texas. Her first feature, THE UNFORESEEN, executive produced by Robert Redford and Terrence Malick, premiered at Sundance, was released theatrically and broadcast on the Sundance Channel. More recently, LOOK & SEE: A Portrait of Wendell Berry premiered at Sundance, Berlinale, and SXSW where it won a Special Jury Prize for Visual Design. LOOK & SEE toured to hundreds of small rural communities, aired on PBS Independent Lens, and is currently streaming on Netflix. Honors include a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship, Student Academy Award, Yale’s Trumbull Fine Arts Prize, International Documentary Association Pare Lorenz Grant and an Independent Spirit Truer Than Fiction Award. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband/filmmaking partner and their six young sons.
Jef Sewell – Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Visual Design
Jef Sewell acted as producer on Laura’s first feature documentary THE UNFORESEEN. In addition to fundraising and extensive on-location work, Jef designed THE UNFORESEEN’s motion graphics sequences for which he was nominated for an Outstanding Achievement in Graphics and Animation at the inaugural Cinema Eye awards. His Visual Design for LOOK & SEE won a Special Jury Prize at SXSW. Jef is also the Founder/CEO of Austin-based Amplifier, a vertically integrated merchandising logistics firm.