photo: Masiel Acevedo

SETH FEIN

I'm an audiovisual historian and filmmaker working at the corner of public humanities and documentary art, which is where I built Seven Local Film in Jackson Heights, Queens, where I live, while teaching Screen Studies in Brooklyn College's Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, in the borough where I was born, raised, and publicly educated.

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 across the last half century. I had an opportunity to discuss this work'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 (2021)

I recently completed Small Kitchens. An observational tone poem, it connects and contrasts food-work between a Nepali restaurant and a Mexican 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 –– along with The Actor in His Labyrinth and a sample of Olmsted, Moses, Al, and Me, an interborough essay film in progress –– at Seeing Social Globalization in Queens, a series of my docs at Terraza 7, supported by a City Artist Corps grant.

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

My journey from historian to filmmaker generates 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.


photo: CB House

Among other places, I've taught at Barnard, Columbia, 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.

The relationship between writing and filmmaking is dynamic. Just as my scholarship's analytic and representational limits pushed me to make video, audiovisual experimentation has spawned essays, Writing for Unisphere, that contemplate the crossborough and global present and past of NYC –– from Queens.

The Unisphere resonates with me personally –– our lives orbit one another –– which I explained at The Moth's first-ever Story Slam held in Queens, in Flushing's Town Hall.