American Film Showcase

The American Film Showcase brings award-winning contemporary American documentary and independent narrative films to audiences around the world, offering a view of American society and culture as seen by independent filmmakers.

Funded by a grant from the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and administered by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), the Showcase highlights the value of film in fostering understanding and cooperation, dialogue and debate. The AFS films explore diverse topics including civil rights, disabilities, social justice, sports, freedom of the press, technology and the environment.

The Showcase’s objectives are:
• To provide opportunities for international audiences to become exposed to American viewpoints on socially relevant issues explored in AFS films.
• To spread an understanding of the role of filmmaking as a catalyst for dialogue, exploring solutions to contemporary problems, and self-expression.
• To encourage American filmmakers and film experts to learn about life and culture in selected host countries.

The American Film Showcase program consists of two primary components; person-to-person diplomacy trips in which envoys travel to selected countries for 7-10 days of targeted programming, and an on-going AFS screening series at participating embassies and consulates over the course of the year.

Each AFS trip usually consists of two AFS film envoys: the filmmaker of a featured AFS film, and an AFS film expert. Pairing a film expert with an AFS filmmaker allows the activities to go beyond screenings and Q&As to include workshops and master classes. This often deepens the impact of the program in terms of conveying the power of filmmaking. The expert offers a distinct set of skills that the filmmaker may not possess, from providing a broader historical framework for the making and reception of documentary films to film fundraising, and can provide context and insight into the big picture of filmmaking.

In addition to the person-to-person component of AFS, embassies will have the opportunity to develop on-going programming with AFS films before and after the envoys visit. The selected AFS films will be divided into three thematic modules – Women and Girls Empowerment, Youth Empowerment, Diversity and Civil Society. The ECA will assign each participating country one thematic module and the AFS office will send the embassy all of the films in that module. The Embassy may screen their designated AFS films, at embassy-sponsored events, up to one year after the end of the AFS 2014 program year. In past years, some embassies have chosen to include a virtual Q&A with a filmmaker when they are screening the film outside the context of an envoy visit.

Alan Baker
Associate Dean of Administration & International Projects at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. His experience includes initiation and oversight of several international programs, including 3 years supervising the DoS USC Fusion Arts Exchange summer program from 2007 to 2009, which brought 20 international university students to SCA for 5-week workshops. He is the principal liaison for academic programs in cinematic arts with government and private sector organizations in Qatar, Dubai, India, Malaysia and other locales.  Prior to coming to USC, he had 25 years of television programming and production experience at 20th Century Fox, Paramount Television, and public television.

Mark J. Harris
Distinguished Professor and Co-Head of Advanced Documentary Production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, he has taught filmmaking at SCA since 1983. Among his many works are The Redwoods, which won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary; The Long Way Home, which won the Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary; Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, which also won an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary; Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives, an Emmy-nominated HBO documentary; and Darfur Now, which won an NAACP Image Award.

Michael Renov
Michael Renov, Professor of Critical Studies and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at SCA, is a documentary scholar and co-founder of Visible Evidence, an international and highly interdisciplinary documentary studies conference begun in 1993.  He is the author or editor of seven books including The Subject of Documentary and Theorizing Documentary.

Rachel Gandin Mark
Rachel Gandin Mark is the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Director of International Programs and Special Initiatives, and the Program Administrator for the US Department of State’s major film diplomacy program, the American Film Showcase. Previously, Rachel was the sole producer of Walt Disney International’s first Arabic-language feature, The United, released internationally in 2013, and she set up two additional Arabic feature films in development at Disney. Rachel served for five years as Creative Consultant for the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab in Jordan, founded the Arab Film Festival in Los Angeles, and worked in the Film Acquisitions Department at 20th Century Fox and for the indie production company, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. She received an M.A. in Arabic from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, a B.A. in International Development from UCLA, and lived in Cairo, Egypt for more than three years. Between 2012 and 2014, she traveled to Angola, South Africa, Burundi, Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Japan, Laos, Israel and Paraguay with the American Film Showcase’s filmmaker exchange programs.

Alessandro Ago
SCA Director of Programming and Special Projects, he has extensive experience and expertise in programming film screenings, festivals, guest speakers and special events. Both an Italian and American citizen, he grew up in Washington D.C. and Rome, Italy. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the USC School of Cinematic Arts Critical Studies division.

Jennifer Phan
American Film Showcase Program Coordinator. Jennifer was a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by the ECA at the U.S. Department of State, and spent two years studying and volunteering in various countries including Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, and the United Kingdom. She majored in Business Administration at the University of California, Riverside and has a great passion for film. Jennifer also interned at DreamWorks Animation and Live Nation Entertainment with

AFS Communications Coordinator – Job Description

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