photo: Masiel Acevedo


I'm a Brooklyn-born-and-raised historian and filmmaker working at the corner of public humanities and documentary art, which is where I've built Seven Local Film, in Jackson Heights, Queens, where I live. 

April 10, 2020, Jackson Heights

I've taught in Brooklyn College's Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, Barnard, Columbia, NYU, and Yale, where, between 2002 and 2010, I was a professor of History (US-World Relations), Film, Latin American and American Studies, and where I received Yale's Poorvu Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Instruction (for my course The Idea of the Western Hemisphere), its Graduate 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.

photo: CB House

My travels from film historian to filmmaker generate my documentary practice. I did my undergraduate degree in history at Cornell University and 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 published scholarship focuses on film, television, propaganda, and the history of the Americas across the Depression, Second World War, and the Cold War.

Between Neighborhoods (2018)

My films explore documentary art's analytic as well as expressive power. These objectives generated Between Neighborhoods, my documentary diptych that works between original and archival footage to contemplate the urban and global histories of imperialism and immigration that orbit the Unisphere in Queens between the age of Robert Moses, who built it for the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, and that of AOC, who represents those who live around it today. I had an opportunity to discuss Between Neighborhood's evolution in Jump Cut, and I'm honored that it won the Founders Choice Award for Documentary at the Queens World Film Festival.

Small Kitchens (2023)

I recently completed Small Kitchens, an observational tone poem that connects and contrasts food and work between a Nepalese restaurant and a Mexican taco cart along the Elmhurst-Jackson Heights border under the 7 train in Queens, before and during Covid Time. A New Work Grant from the Queens Council on the Arts funded by NYC's Department of Cultural Affairs
supported its production; it previewed with another new work, The Actor in His Labyrinth, and a sample of Olmsted, Moses, Al, and Me at Seeing Social Globalization in Queens, a series of my docs funded by a City Artist Corps Grant. Currently I am producing Time in Place, a video essay that contemplates the lives and careers of Isamu Noguchi, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and Joseph Cornell across Queens, across decades; a Queens Arts Fund grant supports this project, which will premiere in 2023.

I am also at work on Our Neighborhood, a feature-length documentary that examines Washington's secret production of television propaganda for Latin America across the Sixties. Grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities funded its archival research and a year as a fellow in multimedia history at Harvard's Charles Warren Center supported its development.

poster: Don Calva

Just as my scholarship's analytic and expressive ambitions pushed me into documentary art, audiovisual experimentation has spawned new writing.

On video art's ability to expand the practice of history, I recently published "The East Village Detective: On Bill Morrison's Historical Poetics" in the Los Angeles Review of Books.  Meanwhile, my work and life around Unisphere has prompted archive-derived transhistorical essays, written as well as videoed, about transnational NYC's present and past –– viewed from Queens.

Unisphere resonates with me across decades; our lives orbit one another. I told our tale in Flushing Town Hall at the Moth's first-ever Story Slam in Queens.