I'm an audiovisual historian and filmmaker working at the intersection of scholarship and art, which is where I have built Seven Local Film in Jackson Heights, Queens, where I live. Meanwhile, I teach Screen Studies in Brooklyn College's Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, in the borough in which I was born and raised. My films explore audiovisual art's analytic as well as expressive capacity to create history and the potential of archival research as a source of documentary art.
photo: CB House
These objectives generated Between Neighborhoods, my transhistorical artdoc that contemplates the urban and global histories that orbit the Unisphere in Queens across the last half century. I had an opportunity to discuss its evolution in dialogue with my ideas about film and history in a recent interview in JUMP CUT. And I'm honored that Between Neighborhoods won the Founders Choice Award for Documentary at the Queens World Film Festival. I am currently at work on two docs, one an historical feature and the other a short artdoc. Our Neighborhood, examines Washington's secret production of television propaganda in Latin America across the Sixties; grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities funded its initial research and a year as a fellow in multimedia history at Harvard's Charles Warren Center supported its subsequent development. Small Kitchens examines commercial kitchen work in confined spaces in two late-night Queens establishments. Working across social borders, between small kitchens, the artdoc contemplates the visual music of work. A New Work Grant from the Queens Arts Council funded by NYC's Department of Cultural Affairs supports the project's production and exhibition. Small Kitchens will premiere in the Fall of 2019 in Queens.
I did my undergraduate degree in history at Cornell University and then my doctorate, also in history, at the University of Texas at Austin, where my dissertation, Hollywood and United States-Mexico Relations in the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, won the Barnes Lathrop Prize. My publications since then have focused on film, television, and the history of the Americas. Among other places, I've taught at Barnard, Columbia, and Yale, where, between 2002 and 2010, I was a professor of History and Film, Latin American and American studies, and where I was honored to receive the Poorvu Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Instruction (for my course The Idea of the Western Hemisphere), the Graduate School's Mentorship Prize for the Humanities, and a McCredie Fellowship in Instructional Technology, which inadvertently facilitated my move from writing about audiovisual culture to making it.
The relationship between writing and video is reciprocal but not static. Just as my written history work's conceptual and representational limits pushed me to make films, my video work's form as well as content has spawned a book's worth of essays, the substance and shape of which would never have materialized without audiovisual experimentation. Writing for Unisphere contemplates the interborough and interamerican present and past of global NYC, viewed from Queens.
The Unisphere also resonates with me personally, which I explained at the Moth's first-ever Story Slam held in Queens, in Flushing's Town Hall, at a temporal as well as geographical crossroads in my life and career.