I'm an audiovisual historian and filmmaker working at the intersection of research and art, which is where I've 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 documentary art's analytic as well as expressive power.
photo: CB House
These objectives generated Between Neighborhoods, which contemplates the urban and global histories that orbit the Unisphere in Queens across the last half century. I had an opportunity to discuss the work's evolution in dialogue with my ideas about film and history in Jump Cut, and I'm honored that it won the Founders Choice Award for Documentary at the Queens World Film Festival.
I recently completed Small Kitchens, a short artdoc that connects and contrasts work between a Nepali restaurant and a Mexican food cart a few blocks from one another along the Elmhurst-Jackson Heights border, under the 7 train, in Queens. A New Work Grant from the Queens Council on the Arts funded by NYC's Department of Cultural Affairs supported this project's production. I am currently at work on Our Neighborhood, which 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. I am also now editing a new interborough/interamerican short, The Actor in His Labyrinth.
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 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.