photo: Masiel Acevedo

SETH FEIN

I'm a Brooklyn-born-and-raised historian and filmmaker working at the corner of public humanities and documentary art, which is where I've built Seven Local Film in Jackson Heights, Queens, where I live. 

My travels from film historian to filmmaker generate 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

I've taught in Brooklyn College's Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, 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.

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 between the age of Robert Moses, who built it for the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, and that of AOC, who represents those who live around it today. I had an opportunity to discuss Between Neighborhood'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 that connects and contrasts food and 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 with The Actor in His Labyrinth and a sample of Olmsted, Moses, Al, and Me at Seeing Social Globalization in Queens, a series of my docs funded 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

Creating documentary art catalyzes creative history writing.

Consequently, just as my scholarship's analytic and representational limits pushed me to make video, audiovisual experimentation has spawned Writing for Unisphere, transhistorical essays that contemplate the crossborough and global present and past of NYC –– from Queens.

Unisphere resonates with me across decades; our lives orbit one another. I told our tale in Flushing Town Hall at the Moth's first-ever Story Slam in Queens.