Prior to joining the DFP, I worked as an educator for eight years at a small, public school in Brooklyn, NY. Prior to teaching high school world history, I received my BA in individualized study from New York University and my MA in education from Long Island University. After graduation, I spent summers studying and traveling as a beneficiary of numerous National Endowment for the Humanities grants and a Fulbright-Hayes grant. Over the years, I repeatedly turned to documentary when in need of a compelling, visual storytelling medium to engage and educate young people. My goal is to produce informed documentaries that will similarly engage the general public about systemic issues plaguing urban youth, such as the pressing need for both education and prison reform. In addition, I intend to continue working to affect change within these broken systems by empowering students and ex-offenders to craft their own narratives through the medium of documentary film.
The first documentary I can remember watching is Ken Burns’ The Civil War. One notable technique, now dubbed “The Ken Burns Effect,” drew my attention to the power of juxtaposition – still photographs and voiced-over historical quotes. That early encounter moved me from my first love, still photography, towards filmmaking. It has been a long road since then, however, which has included stops at Rochester Institute of Photography, Clark Atlanta University (where I received my undergraduate degree in communications), Georgia State University, and years of freelance work. My professional work as a cameraman has included a half dozen16 and 35-mm short films and music videos, three dramatic features, and broadcast work for various news magazines. The most important documentary films I worked on have taken me to the Midwest, Haiti, Egypt, and most recently, the Republic of Panama, where I have been shooting a documentary on the informal economy. My current research interests revolve around the micro level effects of global economic processes and the importance of art as a spiritual and political force.
I graduated from the University of Florida in 2010 where I received a degree in photojournalism with a minor in Spanish language. During college, I interned and worked for several newspapers in addition to studying abroad in Argentina and Germany. For the two years prior to entering the DFP, I taught English to elementary and high school students in Ibiza and Catalunya, Spain. These experiences sparked my love for storytelling and connected me to people who are passionate about their beliefs. I am interested in making socially-conscious documentaries where I can immerse myself in the lives of my subjects and explore issues that may seem common on the surface but yield an unexpected, deeper reality. My goal is to make visually stimulating films that inspire both individual thought and community discussion.
I earned my undergraduate degree in history from Davidson College in 2009. I continued to pursue my interest in academic history at the University of Sheffield in England. In 2011, my was awarded a MA in historical research; my dissertation focused on early efforts among American peace activists to coordinate national protest against the Vietnam War. While at Sheffield, I took a course on public history that emphasized the translation of academic history into formats more accessible to the general public. I aspire to marry my training as a historian with training as a documentarian to create works that not only educate but also demonstrate the rigor of thought demanded by scholarship.
Safyah Zafar Usmani
I earned an undergraduate degree in media science from SZABIST with a Production Major. My goal is to become a highly skilled, unprejudiced, and empathetic documentarian. My inclination toward documentary stems from the fact that story-telling is my passion and real-life characters are my inspiration – documentary filmmaking allows me to combine both. In the past, I have worked with local and international filmmakers to make films on diverse subjects, including young Pakistani heroes, the lineage of rural artifacts, villagers living lives of ancient era in clay houses without water or electricity, and South Asian forms of Classical Dance. I believe in the beauty of imperfection and that a mesh of talent and blemish in people makes life interesting and stories worth telling. I intend to utilize my filmmaking skills on social as well as cultural fronts in order to make sure that injustice is exposed and diversity is celebrated.