This year, the Graduate School of Journalism will welcome former director of the Ford Foundation and social justice filmmaker Orlando Bagwell as its new director of the School’s documentary program. An award-winning writer, producer and director, Bagwell has focused his filmmaking on social and racial issues for the past few decades.
His works include the PBS TV series “Eyes on the Prize,” about the Civil Rights movement, and “Citizen King,” a portrait of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the last five years of his life. Other films of Bagwell’s include “Roots of Resistance,” on the anti-slavery “underground railroad,” and “Malcolm X: Make It Plain.”
“Bagwell is a remarkably accomplished writer and producer, a mentor and role model to a generation of younger filmmakers, and a hugely influential sponsors of independent film in his former capacity as head of the Ford Foundation’s $50 million documentary fund,” said Edward Wasserman, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism. “He is both an acclaimed artist and a seasoned professional, and the ideal candidate to sustain, expand and enhance our marquee instructional program, already recognized as a leader in the documentary world.”
The Ford Foundation initiative JustFilms, which Bagwell helped co-found, has produced such works as the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary, “How to Survive a Plague,” about the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Many documentary students said they felt that Bagwell would continue the social issue filmmaking tradition of the long-time current documentary journalism director, Jon Else. “Orlando came to speak at one of our doc classes last semester and everyone knew there was a sort of magic about him,” said Emily Gibson, a J-School student. “He wasn’t just a great teacher — that was obvious in the first five minutes — but he was someone who would expand our talents in a way that no one else could.”
Bagwell was selected after a five-month search from a pool of more than 100 candidates. He currently runs his own production company, LakeHouse Films, based in New York City. He will begin his post at the Graduate School of Journalism school in January 2015.