Remembering Patricia Zimmermann

From Amy Falkner, Dean of the Park School

It is with profound sadness that we announce the sudden passing of Professor Patricia Zimmermann on Friday, August 18, 2023. It was a shock to us all to lose such a dear colleague, scholar and teacher. We are posting this web page that lists her many, many accomplishments for all to see her important work. If you like, you may read a message from President Cornish with more details posted on IC News.

We share our sorrow with Patty’s husband, Stewart, son, Sean, her entire family, and vast set of friends and colleagues. A public celebration of her life and work will be held in the spring of 2024.

Patricia Zimmermann, Charles A. Dana Professor of Screen Studies

Patricia Zimmermann wrote Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film (Indiana, 1995), States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracies  (Minnesota, 2000), Thinking Through Digital Media: Transnational Environments and Locative Places  (Palgrave, 2015, with Dale Hudson), and Open Spaces: Openings, Closings, and Thresholds of Independent Public Media (U of St. Andrews Press, 2016). She was also coeditor of  Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories (California, 2008). She was coeditor with Erik Barnouw of The Flaherty: Four Decades in the Cause of Independent Cinema (Wide Angle, 1996). With Scott MacDonald, she wrote The Flaherty: Sixty Years in the Cause of Independent Film (Indiana University Press, 2017). Her book with Helen De Michiel, Open Space New Media Documentary: A Toolkit for Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2018) explores collaborative and participatory place-based international new media projects. Her book Documentary Across Platforms : Reverse Engineering Media, Politics, and Place (Indiana, 2019) explores the relationship between historiography, political engagements and digital art practices across platforms and modes. Her last volume with Scott MacDonald is a companion book to The Flaherty entitled Flash Flaherty: Tales from a Film Seminar (Indiana, 2021). With Dale Hudson, she was also writing a new book on transnational new media projects as a follow up to Thinking through Digital Media entitled Digital Habitats: Transnational New Media and the Environment (Indiana, forthcoming)

She published over 200 scholarly research articles and essays on film history and historiography, documentary and experimental film/video/digital arts, new media,  amateur film, political economy of media, and digital culture theory in a wide swathe of international journals ranging from Screen, Genders,  Journal of Film and Video, Afterimage, Framework, Asian Communications Quarterly, Cinema Journal, Film Quarterly, Studies in Documentary Film, Alphaville, Wide Angle, Cultural Studies, DOX, Film History, Socialist Review, Journal of Communications Inquiry, Jump Cut, and The Moving Image and contributed to many anthologies. Her blog, Open Spaces, explored openings, closings, and thresholds in international public media, especially documentary.

She delivered invited lectures and plenary addresses across the globe—Canada, China, Colombia, England, Finland, France, Germany, Guinea, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Wales—and throughout the United States. As a journalist, her writing on media arts and media public policy was published in The Independent, Gannett Newspapers, Lola, Afterimage, Main, Lingua Franca, Search for a Common Ground, National Film Registry of the Library of Congress,,, and 

She also served as Editor-at-Large for The Edge, the online magazine of the Park Center for Independent Media.  In addition, she was on the editorial boards of the journals Film QuarterlyThe Journal of Film and Video Annika, and The Moving Image: The Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists.  She was a trustee  and Vice-President of International Film Seminars, the home of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar. She also served on the national boards of Women Make Movies, Northeast Historic Film Archive (Maine), Konscious.Com, and Search for a Common Ground Film Festival (an international non-governmental organization dedicated to conflict resolution). Locally, in Ithaca, she served on the Board for Cinemapolis, the local nonprofit art cinema and on the board of Opera Ithaca.

Working extensively as a curator and programmer, she curated the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar several times, including a retrospective on American documentary history, a documentary summit between Glasnost and American documentarians and scholars in Riga, Latvia, and "Explorations in Memory and Modernity" as well as other film, video, new media exhibitions, and artist's residencies. Her curated programs have screened nationally and internationally at a variety of museums, conferences, and film festivals. In 2010, she curated Open Spaces/Singapore/Southeast Asia, an extensive exhibition in Singapore that explored a variety of forms of digitality in different new media interfaces across the region. Her final large-scale curatorial project, coprogrammed with Louis Massiah of Scribe Video Center, was We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media, which screened at 20 sites across the United States.

As Director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, she curated and programmed across film, video, new media, performance, music, literature and visual arts.  FLEFF is a one-week multimedia inter-arts extravaganza that reboots the environment and sustainability into a larger global conversation, embracing issues ranging from labor, war, health, disease, music, intellectual property, fine art, software, remix culture, economics, archives, AIDS, women’s rights, and human rights.

She served on the roster as a Film and Documentary Envoy for the U.S. State Department. She was also on the roster of Fulbright Specialists.