photo: Masiel Acevedo


I'm a Brooklyn-born-and-raised historian and filmmaker working at the corner of public humanities and documentary art. That's the intersection where I've built Seven Local Film –– between local stops on the 7 train –– in Jackson Heights, Queens, where I live

My beliefs –– that globality can only be seen, and therefore contemplated, locally and that history is art, inevitably created more than excavated –– drive my films.

April 10, 2020, Jackson Heights

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

photo: CB House

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 across the Depression, Second World War, and the Cold War.

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 (2023)

I recently completed Small Kitchens, an observational tone poem that connects and contrasts food and work between a Nepalese restaurant and a Mexican taco 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 another new work, 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. Currently I am completing Dizzy in Queens: Cycling between Gillespie and Armstrong, Present and Past a video essay that contemplates the lives and careers of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong through Queens; a Queens Arts Fund grant supported this project's development. 

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

Just as my scholarship's analytic and expressive ambitions pushed me into documentary art, audiovisual experimentation has spawned new writing.

Two recent pieces –– one in the Village Voice and another in the Los Angeles Review of Books –– addressing recent works by the documentary artist Bill Morrison emerged from my own practice's contemplation of audiovisual art as history.  Meanwhile, my work and life around Unisphere has prompted archive-derived transhistorical essays, in writing as well as video, about transnational NYC's present and past –– viewed 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.