a Little about our history
The Film program was founded in 1941 by Hans Richter, a revolutionary artist who was a major force in redefining art and film in the 20th century. He was best known for his contributions to Dadaism, Surrealism, and New American Cinema Movement. Richter was author of a first-hand account of the Dada movement entitled Dada: Art and Anti-Art.
Born in Berlin, Hans Richter moved to Switzerland, where he was associated with the founding of the Dada movement. During the 1920s, he created the breakthrough abstract animated film “Rhythmus 21,” followed by the Dada classic “Ghosts Before Breakfast.” After the Nazis forced him out of Europe in 1941, Richter came to the United States and served as director of the newly formed Institute of Film Techniques, the first film school in the United States. Over the next 17 years teaching at City College, Richter influenced generations of American filmmakers by opening their eyes to documentary, experimental and European art films. The Institute of Film Techniques eventually developed into our current BFA Program in Film/Video.
In 1999, the Master of Fine Arts program was founded to promote diverse voices in documentary and fiction filmmaking. The program distinguishes itself by its faculty, comprised entirely of working filmmakers, and its emphasis on cultivating independent and original visual story-tellers. Within six years we had our first Oscar-winning film, with several more Oscars and Emmys to follow, quite an achievement for a small program with only 25 students per graduating class.
Voice of Hans Richter, excerpted from the film Hans Richter: Everything Turns–Everything Revolves by CCNY faculty member Dave Davidson.
Meet our faculty
Our faculty and staff are both master professors and working professionals connected to vast resources in the film and media arts production industry. Learn more about the faculty of the MFA Film Program at CCNY.
An internationally acclaimed nonfiction filmmaker and author, Andrea Weiss is director of Bones of Contention, a feature documentary delving into the historical memory movement in Spain and the unknown story of LGBT repression under the Franco dictatorship. Bones of Contention premiered in the Berlin Film Festival and won several film festival awards, including in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Valladolid, Spain. She is also co-director of Escape To Life, a feature documentary which premiered in the Rotterdam Film Festival followed by a European theatrical and television release. Other film credits include U.N. Fever, Recall Florida, I Live At Ground Zero, Seed Of Sarah, Paris Was A Woman, A Bit Of Scarlet, International Sweethearts Of Rhythm, Tiny & Ruby: Hell Divin’ Women, and Before Stonewall (for which she won an Emmy Award).
Weiss’ nonfiction books include Paris Was A Woman (Counterpoint Press, 2013), winner of a Lambda Literary Award, Vampires And Violets (Penguin, 1993), and In The Shadow Of The Magic Mountain (University of Chicago Press, 2008), winner of a Publishing Triangle Award. She has received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and a U.S./Spain Fulbright Fellowship. She holds a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers University which honored her with a Distinguished Alumni Award.
Antonio Tibaldi has worked as writer/director in the film industries of Europe, Australia and North America since 1992, when he co-wrote (with Gill Dennis) and directed ON MY OWN (Sundance 1993), nominated for 6 AFI awards (Australian Oscar Equivalent) and 1 Genie award (Canada’s Oscar equivalent). He directed 5 other features, including RUNNING AGAINST (Sundance 1997, winner Cinequest and Prix Italia 1997) and LITTLE BOY BLUE (winner Mystfest, Cattolica 1997).
His work has screened at festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, IDFA, San Sebastian, Rotterdam; and released by companies such as Miramax, Warner Bros., and Lion’s Gate. Since 2004 he collaborates with UNTV (United Nations TV) shedding light on under-reported realities in South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. He recently completed production on his newest non-fiction film PRISON SEA, as well as on a feature film WE ARE LIVING THINGS. Both are set for a 2021 release.
His projects have received the support of IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project), TFI (Tribeca Film Institute) and FIND (Film Independent), Dokincubator, Eave, WEMW (When East Meets West).
He studied Philosophy and Art History at the University of Florence, Italy; as a Fulbright scholar he received an MFA in Film/Video at Calarts (California Institute of the Arts), studying with Sandy Mackendrick.
Jerry W. Carlson
MCA Department Chair & Cinema Studies Director
A specialist in narrative theory, global independent film, and the cinemas of the Americas, Professor Carlson is Chair of the Department of Media & Communication Arts at The City College CUNY. In addition, at the CUNY Graduate Center he is a member of the doctoral faculties of French, Film Studies and Comparative Literature and a Senior Fellow at the Bildner Center for Western Hemispheric Studies. He has lectured at Stanford, Columbia, Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (Cuba), and the University of Paris, among others.
Moreover, he is an active producer, director, and writer with multiple Emmy Awards. As a Senior Producer for City University Television (CUNY-TV), he created and produces the series CITY CINEMATHEQUE about film history, CANAPE about French-American cultural relations, and NUEVA YORK (in Spanish) about the Latino cultures of New York City. As an independent producer, his recent work includes the Showtime Networks production DIRT directed by Nancy Savoca and LOOKING FOR PALLADIN directed by Andrzej Krakowski.
In 1998 he was inducted by France as a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques. He was educated at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Chicago (A.M. & Ph.D.).
Tal Lazar is a Cinematographer, Producer and Educator. He completed his military service at the IDF with a sign of excellence in service bestowed on him by Israeli president Ezer Weizman in the year 2000. Upon earning a BFA degree at Tel Aviv University, where he won the Sharet Foundation Award for Best Cinematography, Lazar moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to pursue an MFA in Cinematography at the American Film Institute Conservatory in Hollywood. Lazar has worked on dozens of film productions and lensed numerous international box office successes, with Vietnam at the forefront. His work can be found on all popular streaming platforms internationally.
In 2017 Lazar founded MiLa Media, a New York City based production studio and in 2019 he directed his first film.
Lazar became a faculty member at the American Film Institute Conservatory two years after graduating. He is currently a faculty member at the City College of New York, AFI, Columbia University School of the Arts and Berklee College of Music’s Berklee Online.
Nancy Gerstman is co-President and co-founder of Zeitgeist Films, renowned for their ground-breaking documentaries and highly curated collection of foreign language films, which celebrated its 31st anniversary in 2019. She has worked in all aspects of film distribution and exhibition including a stint at Landmark Theatre Corporation, the largest independent theatre chain in the U.S. She has traveled throughout the world as a juror, panelist and commentator on issues related to independent and foreign language film; in 2019 through the Independent Filmmaker Project as one of three mentors sent to speak with filmmakers in Busan, South Korea. She and her business partner Emily Russo received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art House Convergence in 2020. She is an Adjunct Professor in the Master’s Program in Media and Communication Arts at City College of New York (CCNY). In 2016 she became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was born in Queens, New York.
Dr. Boukary Sawadogo is a scholar, author, filmmaker, and media consultant. He has published extensively on African cinema, including film reviews, articles, book chapters, and books. His three single-authored books on African cinema are required readings in several courses on African cinema which are taught at American universities. These books are:
In addition to cinema studies, Dr. Sawadogo’s research is widening in scope and depth to include diaspora studies. In this respect, he has recently a completed a book manuscript which is provisionally entitled “Africans in Harlem: The Untold New York Story.” This forthcoming book is about Harlem, New York City, and the new African diaspora (immigrants) in the USA.
For his multifaceted expertise and professional experience, Dr. Boukary Sawadogo has regularly appeared in the media to speak about cinema and media in Africa, Harlem, and African immigrants in the United States. He has experience serving as judge and discussion moderator at film festivals. Dr. Sawadogo is also a regular guest speaker at universities, and research and cultural organizations.
Krakowski received his Ph.D. at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, where he studied film, television and theatre directing. Before leaving Poland in 1968, he was also known as a promising poet, writer and a cartoonist.
After being sent to Hollywood on a six-month scholarship, he was stripped by the Polish authorities of his citizenship and declared persona-non-grata in his native country. He attended the American Film Institute, where among his classmates he counts David Lynch, Terrence Malick and Paul Schrader.
Over the last four decades, Krakowski wrote, directed and/or produced over 70 feature films, documenatries and TV movies for major studios and TV networks. Credits include LOOKING FOR PALLADIN, TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT, EMINENT DOMAIN, MANAGUA, TIDES OF WAR, WHITE DRAGON and PORTRAIT OF A HITMAN.
His feature CAMPFIRE STORIES – based on a comic book – was shown on Showtime and sold all over the world, as were the docu-drama FAREWELL TO MY COUNTRY and the documentary POLITICS OF CANCER. His TV series WE ARE NEW YORK won two Emmy Awards. Krakowski’s latest production POLLYWOOD (for HBO Europe) opened and was awarded at Kraków Film Festival (2020).
Krakowski’s theatre credits include REJWACH (in 2018 & 2019) at The National Jewish Theatre in Poland, KING DAVID on Broadway and FELIX THE CAT’S MUSICAL JOURNEY in Tokyo. He also has authored several books, among them: THE WORLD THROUGH THE EYE OF A SCREENWRITER and POLLYWOOD I and II.
Dr. Krakowski is a visiting professor and founder of the International Postgraduate Program for Creative Producers at the National Film School in Poland and a member of The Board of Foreign Advisors at the College of Media and International Culture at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.
JT Takagi (Orinne JT Takagi) is an award winning independent film maker and sound recordist. Her films are primarily on Asian/Asian-American and immigrant issues and include Bittersweet Survival, Homes Apart: Korea; The Women Outside; and North Korea: Beyond the DMZ, which all aired nationally on PBS. As a sound engineer, she has recorded for numerous public television and theatrical documentaries with Emmy and Cinema Audio Society nominations including the 2014 releases Through A Lens Darkly by Thomas Allen Harris, Freedom Summer by Stanley Nelson, and the upcoming August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand by Sam Pollard. She also manages Third World Newsreel, a non-profit alternative media center, and serves on the boards of both community and national organizations working on peace and social justice.
Annie J. Howell
Annie J. Howell, a screenwriter and director in both film and television, is invested in character-driven stories about family and identity. She co-wrote YELLOW ROSE, starring Tony-nominee Eva Noblezada (“Hadestown”), with director Diane Paragas, a film that was honored with eight Grand Jury Prizes for Best Narrative Feature, as well as two Audience Awards. The Hollywood Reporter called the film heartfelt, provocative and “affecting on almost every level,” while Character Media called it “the immigration film of our times.” Sony Pictures Worldwide distributes YELLOW ROSE theatrically. Howell wrote the screenplay for LITTLE BOXES, starring Melanie Lynskey and the late Nelsan Ellis, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and subsequently sold to Netflix. She has co-written and co-directed two features with Lisa Robinson: SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS and CLAIRE IN MOTION. Each film premiered at SXSW and played festivals and select theaters nation-wide. She is the recipient of the Sloan Feature Film Prize, an IFP Emerging Narrative Award, a Nantucket Screenwriters Colony residency and a San Francisco Film Society/Rainin Foundation grant, among other awards. She has taught at Duke, The New School, Ohio University and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she is an alum of Grad Film and TV.
Documentaries and Dramas
Deirdre Fishel is an independent producer/director whose work focuses primarily on women. Her most recent feature documentary, WOMEN IN BLUE (2020), about women officers in the Minneapolis Police Department and the troubled history of racism and police misconduct that plagued the department long before an MPD officer murdered George Floyd in May 2020, was to have premiered at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. It has gone to a series of virtual festivals including AFI DOCS, will begin an outreach and engagement campaign in the fall of 2020 and will broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens in February 2021. Fishel’s last documentary, CARE (2016), about home health aides and America’s broken care system, was broadcast on America Reframed and had an extensive national outreach and engagement campaign, which was restarted in the summer of 2020 by a grant from the Ford Foundation. Her groundbreaking documentary STILL DOING IT: The Intimate Lives of Women Over 65, premiered at SXSW, was distributed internationally and expanded into a book co-written with producer Diana Holtzberg. Fishel’s first major work, the dramatic feature RISK (1994), premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival, broadcast on the Sundance Channel and was distributed in 35 countries worldwide.
Campbell Dalglish: award winning writer/director/producer and film critic (www.darcproductions.net).
Award winning plays include THE LIST, SPLIT, GREEN FIRE, SKINS OF THE MONEY DRUM (a Rock ’N Roll musical), and BLUE MASS (Richard Rogers Notation for Best Musical, 1987).
Short documentaries on Indian Country broadcast on the New Morning Show include Havasupai, White Mountain Apache, and Navajo tribes. He is currently in post-production on a feature documentary SPIRIT ROADS: AMERICAN INDIANS SURVIVING GENOCIDE IN OKLAHOMA.
Award winning films include DANCE OF THE QUANTUM CATS, ROAD KILL and screenplays BRUISES, DEER WOMAN, CHARADE OF A FLY, and THE COMMUNE.
As an activist Dalglish produced feature length docudramas through interactive improvisations A HARD WAY OUT (1996 Hartford gangs), THE COMMUNITY ROOM, a musical (1992 Jericho Homeless Shelter), THE SHOOTING GALLERY (1988 Bridgeport Prison), and published a chapter titled “A HARD WAY OUT” on his methods (“Participatory Visual and Digital Research in Action”).
He created the annual Improfilm Festival with CCNY film students in its sixth year at the IFP (improfilmfestival.wordpress.com). Dalglish is a Film Commissioner for Suffolk County and co-founder of the Plaza Cinema and Media Arts Center in Patchogue, NY (www.plazamac.org).
Babak Rassi is a film editor whose work in the past twenty years has ranged from promotional videos and episodic TV, to feature length fiction and documentaries. He has also served as post-production consultant for a number of NYC filmmakers and production companies.
As an educator he aims to teach the established conventions of editing, as well as emerging trends in post-production, but more importantly to encourage the critical thinking that enables novice filmmakers to take risks and discover fresh approaches in crafting their stories.
His credits include MY BEST DAY (feature fiction), HOLY LAND (feature documentary), LOOKING FOR PALLADIN (feature fiction), TERRE VIVANTE (TV documentary), THE TROUPE (feature documentary), VARIAN AND PUTZI (feature documentary)
DAVID BRIGGS (Adjunct Professor) is a professional sound editor whose Supervising Sound Editor credits include Tales of the City (Netflix), Filthy Rich (Fox), Divorce (HBO), Hap and Leonard (SundanceTV), The Detour (TBS); the documentaries Dads, Do I Sound Gay?, Hunting in Wartime, Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger; the films A Kid Like Jake, 3 Backyards, My Best Day, Teeth. Other sound editing credits include Escape at Dannemora, Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, Moonrise Kingdom (Golden Reel nominee), Private Life, Long Strange Trip, Top Five, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, Roger Waters’ The Wall, and The Wire. He has sound designed numerous award-winning short films as well, including the 2014 Cannes Film Festival award-winning Oh Lucy! and the 2013 Canadian Genie Award winner Throat Song. He is a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild and the Television Academy, and holds an MFA in Film from New York University.
Dave Davidson is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and media educator whose work focuses on social issues, culture and the arts. His 2018 feature, A Gesture and a Word chronicled the final months of a brilliant musician/poet fighting brain cancer, winning Best Feature Film at The Richmond Int. FF.
In 2017, Davidson DP’d and co-directed (with Amber Edwards), There’s a Future in The Past, featuring Vince Giordano, the legendary bandleader and champion of Hot Jazz. The film had successful theatrical runs in Los Angeles and New York and was a “Critic’s Pick” in The New York Times. Davidson’s HANS RICHTER: Everything Turns-Everything Revolves (2013), a portrait of the Dadaist, filmmaker and radical educator, was a featured installation at museums in Los Angeles (LACMA), Berlin (Gropius-Bau) and Metz (Centre Pompidou).
Davidson has directed over twenty documentaries, garnering numerous awards including three Emmy’s. Most were broadcast on international television and nationally on PBS. They include, A Place Out of Time (2010), Into the Light (1996), The Dancing Man (1992) and Cissy Houston-Sweet Inspiration (1988). From 2010 to 2013, he was DP and Co-Producer on the 9-part PBS series, Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook, which received the ASCAP Deems Taylor / Virgil Thompson Award.
In 2019, Davidson directed CINEMA AND SANCTUARY – Hans Richter & America’s First Documentary Film School, which recounts the story of CCNY’s singular place in film history. It premiered at Lincoln Center.
As of 2020, Dave Davidson is professor emeritus at City College. He began teaching there in 1986 and became founding director of the MFA Program in 1999. Davidson has returned to full-time filmmaking with his documentary group, Hudson West Productions.
Meet our students
We are proud to be one of the most international film programs in the world! Recent and current students come from Vietnam, Nigeria, China, Germany, Japan, Israel, Spain, Turkey, Palestine, Haiti, Belarus, France, India, Tibet, Pakistan, Iran, Kenya, Ukraine, Italy, Bhutan, Uruguay, Venezuela, Thailand and Taiwan…
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