From a background in painting, visual art, and experimental film, Rian Brown’s work includes video installation and animation, while Geoff Pingree’s experience in public television and work as a journalist and photographer have shaped his interests and approach as a filmmaker.
BLUE DESERT ~ Towards Antarctica, a multi-channel video installation filmed on a three-week excursion to the remote continent, and produced by Ice Lens Pictures, which they co-founded in 2009,was their first large-scale artistic collaboration.
With The Foreigner’s Home, they combine their discrete perspectives and complimentary talents to produce a film that is neither biography nor traditional documentary, but rather a suggestive and timely visual exploration of the world and work of Toni Morrison, about the questions she poses about "the foreigner," and about art’s vital role in breaking down the barriers that divide us.
RIAN BROWN • DIRECTOR/PRODUCER/EDITOR/ANIMATor
Rian Brown is an independent filmmaker, visual artist, and Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at Oberlin College. She grew up in Boston, studied visual art at Massachusetts College of Art and received her Masters of Fine Arts in film from the University of California, San Diego. Brown’s work spans a variety of film genres, including experimental, animation, documentary, and video installation. For the past two decades she has written, produced and directed many short films including Into the Scrum, Presence of Water, The Settler and Death of the Moth which have screened internationally at film festivals and museums including the L.A. Hammer Museum of Art, Harvard Film Archive, The Wexner Center for the Arts, Anchorage Museum of Art, MOCA Cleveland, Nashville International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Women in the Director’s Chair and others. Reflecting Brown’s background in painting and cinematography her films employ visually dynamic imagery, hand-painted animation, and experimental techniques. Brown co-directed Blue Desert ~ Towards Antarctica, a multichannel video installation shot during an expedition to Antarctica with National Geographic. Brown was Associate Producer for feature documentary, Raise the Roof, a heroic story about rebuilding a Polish synagogue, which appeared on PBS in 2017 and won Best Documentary in the Seattle Jewish Film Festival and screened in over sixty film festivals worldwide. In 2009, she co-founded and co-directs the Apollo Outreach Initiative, a media education program that works with urban youth in the Cleveland area. She has received numerous awards including three Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence awards and was an artist in resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts. In 2015, Brown and her colleague Geoff Pingree were awarded grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation’s Just Films initiative for the production of The Foreigner’s Home, a feature-length documentary on the intellectual and artistic vision of author Toni Morrison. Her work focuses on women’s issues, social justice and experimenting with new forms of animation and time-based art. www.rianbrown.com
GEOFF PINGREE • DIRECTOR/PRODUCER/EDITOR/writer
Geoff Pingree is an Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker, a photographer, a writer, and Professor of Cinema Studies at Oberlin College. He earned both a master’s and doctorate in English and American Literature and Film Studies at the University of Chicago and, before coming to Oberlin, worked in public television in Washington, DC, where he also directed Catholic University’s Program in Media Studies and George Washington University’s Institute for Documentary Filmmaking. His film work has been broadcast on venues including PBS and Discovery. His photography received National Geographic’s 2008 World in Focus Grand Prize and has been published widely in magazines and newspapers includingNational Geographic Traveler, the New York Times, and the International Herald Tribune. He co-edited New Media, 1740-1914(MIT), a collection of scholarly essays, has authored scholarly articles on documentary and Spanish cinema, has written about media, culture, and politics for the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Wired, theNation, the Economist, the American Prospect, Ms. Magazine, Cineaste, and National Geographic Traveler, among others, and has worked as a correspondent in Spain for both TIME and the Christian Science Monitor. With colleague Rian Brown, he founded and directs the Apollo Outreach Initiative, a media education and community outreach program housed in Oberlin’s historic Apollo Theatre. He also directs StoryLens (storylens.org), a non-profit organization that produces short independent documentary films about pressing social issues in order to promote education, encourage public dialogue, and facilitate political change. He is currently editing The Return of Elder Pingree, a feature-length autobiographical documentary he shot in Guatemala. With Brown, he created BLUE DESERT ~ Towards Antarctica, a multi-channel video installation shot during a three-week expedition to Antarctica. With grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms Initiative, he and Brown are currently completing The Foreigner’s Home, a feature-length documentary on the intellectual and artistic vision of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. The film, which will be released in summer 2017, explores the ideas that Morrison articulated—and the public conversation she began—in an exhibition she guest-curated at the Louvre in 2006. www.storylens.org
JONATHAN DEMME • Executive producer
Jonathan Demme (Director) began his career as a writer and producer with Roger Corman in 1971 and directed and produced more than 40 movies. His films have been nominated for 20 Academy Awards, including Beloved, Melvin and Howard, Philadelphia, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Who Am I this Time?, Rachel Getting Married, The Manchurian Candidate, and Silence of the Lambs, for which he won the Oscar for Best Director in 1991.
His documentaries and performance films include Cousin Bobby, The Agronomist, Haiti Dreams of Democracy, Stop Making Sense, Swimming to Cambodia, Neil Young Heart of Gold, Neil Young Trunk Show, Neil Young Journeys, Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains, I’m Carolyn Parker, The Good the Mad and the Beautiful, New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward, Tavis Smiley's Been In the Storm Too Long and Enzo Avitabile Music Life.
Demme’s most recent projects were Ricki and the Flash, starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Audra McDonald, Mamie Gummer and Rick Springfield, released in 2015 and a concert film featuring Justin Timberlake and his band, the Tennessee Kids which was released in 2016.
Ford Morrison • Louvre unit producer & Cinematographer
Ford Morrison was born in Washington DC on June 18 1961. He studied at the University of California at Berkeley and at the Architectural Association in London. Morrison, based in New York since 1992, is an Architect for Princeton University's Plasma Physics Laboratory.
This idea of a film to document artists and writers in Paris was an opportunity for me to examine the unpoliced language of politics and art. The Louvre provided an ideal setting for the dissemination of both art and theory to many new participants. For eight weeks I filmed the newly curated installations, slam poets and writers, choreographers, dancers, musicians and actors. The Foreigner's Home developed toward a cultural polemic to open dialogue where none existed. From the NY Times: Foreign Bodies, an installation in the Louvre’s Melpomène Gallery in which the American choreographer William Forsythe and the German sculptor and video artist Peter Welz have revisited Francis Bacon’s last—unfinished—portrait.
Edwidge Danticat • Film Subject and narRator
Edwidge Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, The Farming of Bones, The Dew Breaker, Create Dangerously, and Claire of the Sea Light. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, Best American Essays 2011, Haiti Noir and Haiti Noir 2. She has written six books for children and young adults, Anacaona, Behind the Mountains, Eight Days, The Last Mapou, Mama’s Nightingale, Untwine, as well as a travel narrative,After the Dance. Her memoir, Brother, I’m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She is a 2009 MacArthur fellow. Her most recent book is The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story, which was published in July 2017. www.edwidgedanticatsociety.org
Jay Ashby • Composer
Jay Ashby is a four-time GRAMMY winning producer and has received multiple nominations in other categories, including Arranging and Engineering. A “consummate musician” whose talents “know few bounds” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ), Ashby has performed, toured, and recorded with some of the most renowned jazz artists in the industry for over 30 years. As a member of The United Nation Orchestra, under the direction of Paquito D’Rivera, and the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band, Ashby forged long lasting musical relationships with jazz greats including Jon Faddis, Monty Alexander, James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Randy Brecker, and Slide Hampton, among many others. Through his association with trumpet master Claudio Roditi, Ashby developed a strong affinity for Brazilian Jazz, which led to many years as a soloist with Astrud Gilberto, as well as arrangements, tours, performances and recordings with numerous Brazilian artists including Tania Maria, Kenia, Ivan Lins, Trio Da Paz, and the fathers of Bossa Nova Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Ashby can be heard as both a trombonist and a percussionist on over 175 recordings covering a continuum of styles from jazz and pop to world music. Ashby’s current release, Mistaken Identity (CD Baby 2011), with fellow trombonist Steve Davis, has received critical acclaim within the jazz industry, remaining on the national air-play list for an unprecedented 16 weeks, reaching as high as #2. As an arranger, among numerous others, notable recordings include Live in Paris with Paul Simon, Beyond Brooklyn with Herbie Mann and Phil Woods, A Day Like This with New York Voices, and both of Nancy Wilson’s GRAMMY winning albums, Turned to Blue and R.S.V.P.
His versatility as a pop trombonist, percussionist, and arranger began in 1999 with pop icon Paul Simon, with whom Ashby toured and performed extensively both on the stage and on television. Appearances with Simon include the Today Show, Saturday Night Live, Late Show with David Letterman, in addition to performing alongside James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, and a host of other artists honoring Paul Simon at the 2007 Gershwin Award Show. Most recently, Ashby participated in the start studded HBO broadcast of the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden.
A YAMAHA artist for many years, Ashby conducts master classes, residencies, and clinics worldwide, including annual events in Germany, Brazil, and Russia. He holds degrees from Ithaca College and Duquesne University, and is currently on faculty at Oberlin Conservatory where he serves as Associate Professor of Jazz Studies. www.oberlincollege.edu/jay-ashby
PETER V. SWENDSEN • Sound Designer
Peter V. Swendsen is interested in creating a sense of place for performers and listeners, often by using field recordings and real-world processes in music that combines acoustic instruments with electronics. Several such pieces are featured on his recent CD, Allusions to Seasons and Weather. In 2016, he premiered What Noises Remain, an evening-length work for percussion, electroacoustic sound, text, and video, co-created with percussionist Jennifer Torrence and based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A professor at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he chairs the Technology in Music and Related Arts department, Swendsen studied at Oberlin, Mills College, and the University of Virginia, and spent a year in residence at the NoTAM studios in Oslo as a Fulbright Fellow. He has created over forty scores for dance, including recent collaborations with David Shimotakahara at Ground Works Dance Theater in Cleveland and Amy Miller at Gibney Dance in New York City. The Foreigner’s Home is his third collaboration with Rian Brown and Geoff Pingree. www.swendsen.net