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American Documentary Showcase Wraps Up Pilot Year, Looks Ahead to 2010

By Tom White

Over the past year, the American Documentary Showcase, a cultural diplomacy program funded by, and as a cooperative program with, the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State, has sent 15 delegations to nations around the world, under the auspices of the US Embassies at the respective countries, to screen documentaries at a wide range of venues and discuss the documentary form to a diverse range of audiences. The goal of the Showcase has been to offer a broad, diversified look at life in the United States and the values of a democratic society as seen by American documentary filmmakers. The Showcase is intended to demonstrate the role documentary plays in fostering understanding and cooperation. To that end, the films chosen for this past year have explored such topics as the democratic process, immigration, the environment, ethnic diversity and education.

The University Film and Video Association (UFVA) is the grant recipient, while IDA has played a role as a presenting partner. Each delegation has consisted of up to two filmmakers and a delegate specialist--either a filmmaker who doesn't have a film in the showcase, or an educator, or a media arts executive. The cultural division of the US Embassy would be instrumental in developing an itinerary of schools, media arts centers, festivals and other suitable venues for the delegation to present their work and conduct discussions or workshops with participants.

The filmmakers on this tour have included Scott Hamilton Kennedy (The Garden), Marshall Curry (Street Fight), Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths), Geeta Patel (Project Kashmir), Anayansi Prado (Children in No Man's Land), among many others, while delegate specialists have included Documentary editor Thomas White (that would be me), former IDA executive directors Sandra Ruch and Betsy McLane, and former IDA Board President Harrison Engle. The delegations have gone countries in Eastern Europe (Belarus, Armenia, Poland, Czech Republic, et al), the Pacific Rim (Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, et al), South America (Ecuador, Columbia) and South Asia (Pakistan, India).

For more information, here are some links:

American Documentary Showcase: UFVA Page

American Documentary Showcase: IDA Page

American Documentary Showcase: Delegation Page, which includes links to eight reports, including my report about my and Marshall Curry's tour to Israel and Jordan.

An article that Scott Hamilton Kennedy wrote for the Tribeca Film website about his experience in Indonesia last spring.


Thanks to a renewed grant from the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State, the Showcase is gearing up for its 2010 edition, which will include up to ten additional films.

Thomas White is editor of Documentary.