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ASU Insight: Making of a Documentary

Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Must See Mondays, Making of a Documentary

Filmmakers Bernardo Ruiz and Suree Towfighnia discuss documentary filmmaking in the First Amendment Forum at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

January 23, 2017

Filmmakers Bernardo Ruiz and Suree Towfighnia explore documentary storytelling’s impact on journalism.

Bernardo Ruiz is a documentary director and producer. His directorial feature debut, "Reportero," (POV, 2013) about attacks on the press in Mexico, was nominated for a 2014 News and Documentary Emmy Award. It premiered at Full Frame (U.S.), IDFA (Europe) and Ambulante (Mexico). New York Magazine called it “a powerful reminder of how journalism often requires immense amounts of physical and psychological bravery.”

His second feature documentary, "Kingdom of Shadows" (POV, 2016) premiered at SXSW in the U.S. and IDFA in Europe.

“Many documentaries have chronicled the drug war in the U.S. and Mexico,” writes Slackerwood of the film, “but few have humanized it as poignantly as Kingdom of Shadows. [It] is more observant than crusading...rooted in first-rate journalism.”

The New York Times called it “unforgettable.”

In fall 2015, Ruiz was a filmmaker in residence at the Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) at the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Previously he created and executive-produced the two part bilingual PBS series, “The Graduates/Los Graduados” (Independent Lens, 2013). Edutopia called it “a winner that should be seen by as many students, teachers and parents as possible.” Ruiz also wrote, directed and produced "American Experience: Roberto Clemente" (PBS, 2008), which was awarded the NCLR, “Alma” Award for “Outstanding Made for Television Documentary."

Suree Towfighnia is a director, producer, DP, and documentary educator from Chicago. She directed "Standing Silent Nation," a feature that chronicles a Native American family's struggle for economic empowerment by growing industrial hemp on their sovereign Reservation lands. A co-production with NAPT, it was broadcast on POV and garnered many awards in competitions and festivals. More recently, it has been the centerpiece of outreach and community engagement pushing for legislative change. Her thesis documentary, Tampico, about a low-income Latina street performer, won the Studs Terkel Award for Community Media.

As an educator, Suree works with at risk youth in the Chicago Public Schools as part of Project AIM; and teaches master classes in documentary making for universities, non-profits and internationally at EICTV in Cuba. She began the Lakota Media Project (LMP) in 2003 to train Lakota girls and women dedicated to telling their own documentary stories. Suree has been dedicated to working on social justice documentary and community engagement since 1997.

Every semester, the Cronkite School invites thought leaders in journalism and communications to share their experiences with students and speak about careers in media, the future of journalism, and issues and trends in the industry.

Must See Mondays happen at the:

First Amendment Forum
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
555 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004