Rachel's most recent feature documentary, The Hand That Feeds, was nominated for an Emmy in 2017, and won awards and recognition at Full Frame, DOC NYC, AFI Docs, Chicago Latino, and numerous other festivals on the 2014-15 circuit. It was broadcast on PBS, and supported by Sundance Documentary Film Program, the Ford Foundation, Latino Public Broadcasting, Chicken & Egg Pictures, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), Bertha BRITDOC Connect Fund, and the Cinereach Project at Sundance Institute, and was featured at Good Pitch NY, Sundance Creative Producing Lab & Summit, and IFP's Spotlight on Documentaries. Rachel’s first film Birds of Passage (2010) was supported by Fulbright and the National Film Institute of Uruguay (ICAU), had two community screening tours of Uruguay sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and was broadcast nationally throughout Latin America. Her video art collaborations with artist Saya Woolfalk have screened at numerous galleries and museums worldwide since 2008. Rachel was a 2013 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow, is bilingual in Spanish, and holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and a graduate certificate in Culture and Media from NYU. She is currently directing a new film about Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats called Knock Down the House. Between independent projects, she works as a cinematographer, director/ producer, and consultant.
I fell in love with the art of documentary film because it synthesizes just about everything I care about at once. It allows me to channel early passions for analog photography and music into the improvisatory compositions of vérité digital cinematography, in which I now have over a decade of experience. Observational shooting to me is about being able to walk into any situation, gauge what the story is, and get a full range of coverage to tell the story visually in the edit, while simultaneously capturing the most emotionally charged moments and compelling images that the scene affords. It’s about movement: knowing when to gracefully guide the eye from one face or detail to the next, and when to stay still. And it’s also about listening, in order to navigate complex and sometimes sensitive interpersonal dynamics, to capture the cinematic textures of conversations and the sonic environment, and to know when to let sound guide the camera’s movement. While I am comfortable using a variety of lenses, setting up tracking shots, and lighting rooms for either naturalistic or stylized effect, I’m deeply committed to vérité cinematography as a uniquely intimate, gritty and authentic art form.
As a director and producer, I love seeking out untold stories of personal transformation that touch upon larger social and political themes. My doctoral background in cultural anthropology encourages me to find beauty, depth, drama, and hope in ordinary people and everyday experiences, and to remain attentive to the ethics of working with subjects. I also enjoy thinking creatively about audiences, distribution and impact from the early stages of production on. Whether the project is a theatrical feature or a short for the web, my goal is to craft emotionally powerful stories in entertaining, thought-provoking, and beautiful ways.
(2014) Shy sandwich-maker Mahoma Lopez unites his undocumented immigrant coworkers to fight abusive conditions at a popular New York restaurant chain. The epic power struggle that ensues turns a single city block into a battlefield in America’s new wage wars.
(2016) A 6 minute introduction to America's new battle over Voting Rights, commissioned by the Sundance Now Doc Club.
(2009) A lyrical journey through the creative process and the everyday struggles of two young songwriters in Uruguay.
(2008-2014) A series of mock documentaries about an imaginary, feminist, do-it-yourself utopia.
Feature documentary in post-production directed by Cynthia Lowen (Bully, 2011)
NETIZENS follows targets of online harassment as they confront digital abuse and strive for equality and justice online.
(2016) A ten minute archival collage of 100+ years of New York City social movements, now playing on infinite loop in the Museum of the City of New York's Activist New York exhibition.
(2012) At a festival in a sleepy Guatemalan mountain town, traditional dances are disrupted by an eerie spectacle where horror movie monsters dance beside Maya gods and Cold War dictators.
SHORT CONTENT AND WORK SAMPLES
(2016) Artist profile / studio tour for a visual artist who works with found materials. Editor: Rachel Lears.
(2013) This short film, adapted for the New York Times Op-Docs series, has been screened by The White House Office of Public Engagement and other groups around the country.
(2013) Luisa, Joseph and Berenice tell the story of how Publicolor, Inc has transformed their lives through their unique design-based programs.
(2012) Ed and Barbara share harrowing and inspiring personal stories from the front lines of World War II. This legacy film was edited by Rachel Lears using public domain materials from the Internet Archive.
(2012) One of 4 doc-style branded content pieces directed for Resonance Interactive. Sammy's family shares how Cenpatico has helped her overcome developmental disabilities including difficulty in verbal communication.
(2012) One of 4 doc-style branded content pieces directed for Resonance Interactive. Emmanuel shows what a difference Cenpatico Schools has made in his life.
(2012) One of 4 doc-style branded content pieces directed for Resonance Interactive. Jaret and Logan's parents share how Cenpatico has helped the growth of their kids with autism.
(2012) One of 4 doc-style branded content pieces directed for Resonance Interactive. Sara gives a voice to the teachers behind Cenpatico's caring and effective school services.
(2009) Music video produced for band Buceo Invisible (Bizarro Records, Montevideo, Uruguay). Directed by David Manefield.