Award-Winning Documentary Filmmaker
This Year's Lang Visiting Professor
by Alisa Giardinelli
Louis Massiah, the 2010-11 Lang Visiting Professor for Issues of Social Change, is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker and the founder and executive director of Scribe Video Center, a community media arts organization in Philadelphia. His films include W.E.B. Du Bois - A Biography in Four Voices: The Bombing of Osage Avenue, on the 1985 Philadelphia police bombing on the MOVE organization, and Louise Alone Thompson Patterson: In Her Own Words, an oral history portrait of the political activist and Harlem Renaissance cultural worker. Many of his works have appeared on public television, including "Power!" and "A Nation of Law?", two films for the landmark PBS series Eyes on the Prize II. Currently, he is producing Haytian Stories, an exploration of the history of the 200-year relationship between the United States and Haiti.
This semester, Massiah, who holds a joint appointment in Black Studies and Film and Media Studies, will teach a new course, The Documentary of Utility: Documentary Filmmaking Approaches in Africa and the African Diaspora. "Particularly when culture develops in direct relation to political movements, which is often the case for documentary film in Africa, the African Diaspora, and the developing world," Massiah explains, "it is important to understand the social context." In the spring, he will teach a documentary filmmaking practicum. He will also give a public presentation, Hayti and the Power of Community Media, at Lang Concert Hall on Wed., Nov. 3, at 4:30 p.m.
"As a filmmaker and as an artist, you hope and really want students to create something that's meaningful," Massiah said in a recent Phoenix interview. "So the challenge is to make sure that they really honor their work and see it as having longevity and utility."
Massiah received a B.A. from Cornell University and an M.S. in documentary filmmaking from M.I.T. In addition to teaching at Scribe, he has also been an artist-in-residence and on the faculty at City College of New York, Princeton University, Ithaca College, the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, American University, and Haverford College. He has been recognized by numerous organizations for his work, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Bread and Roses Community Foundation, among others.