Internationally Acclaimed Scholar and Prolific Author

Patricia R. Zimmermann is professor of Screen Studies in the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. She is also codirector (with Tom Shevory) of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, a major international festival housed at IC. She has also held endowed chair appointments as the Shaw Foundation Professor of New Media in the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the Ida Beam Professor of Cinema and Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa.

Move Over Mainstream Movies, Here Comes Community Media

Zimmermann and Louis Massiah of Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia have created a national traveling exhibition of 41 short documentaries produced by 36 community entities from across the United States by over 90 makers called, “We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media.” The exhibition chronicles the hidden histories of place-based documentaries that arise from specific locales, communities, and needs for social and political change. The project was supported by major grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Just Films/Ford Foundation, and the Independence Public Media Foundation. Read more about it here.


Zimmerman is the author of 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 is also coeditor of Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories (California, 2008) and 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), and with Helen De Michiel, she wrote Open Space New Media Documentary: A Toolkit for Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2018). Her current book project on documentary, Documentary Across Platforms: Reverse Engineering Media, Politics, and Place explores the relationship between historiography, political engagements, and digital art practices across platforms and modes.

Zimmerman has 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, 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, explores openings, closings, and thresholds in international public media, especially documentary.

She has delivered invited lectures and plenary addresses across the globe -- Canada, China, Colombia, England, France, Germany, Guinea, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates -- and throughout the United States. As a journalist, her writing on media arts and media public policy has been published in The Independent, Gannett Newspapers, Lola, Afterimage, Main, Lingua Franca, Search for a Common Ground, National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, CommonDreams.org, NAMAC.org, and Filmmaker.com. Her blog, Open Spaces, www.ithaca.edu/fleff/blogs/open_spaces/ probes the openings, closings and thresholds of international public media, especially documentary, experimental and archival forms.

Currently, she serves on the editorial boards of the journals Film Quarterly, The Journal of Film and Video, The Sixties, and The Moving Image: The Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists. She has served as a trustee of International Film Seminars, the home of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar. She also has 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). She served as vice president of International Film Seminars, the arts organization sponsoring the renowned Robert Flaherty Film Seminars.

Working extensively as a curator and programmer, she has 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.

As codirector of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF), she curates and programs 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. www.ithaca.edu/fleff

She currently serves as a film Eenvoy for the U.S. State Department. She is also on the roster of Fulbright Specialists.

Documentary Across Platforms book

On Friday, November 8, Zimmermann launched her new book, “Documentary Across Platforms: Reverse Engineering Media, Place, and Politics.” It is a conversation between Zimmermann and Girish Shambu sponsored by the Park Center for Independent Media that highlights documentary's role as a practice to think through how the world is organized and to imagine ways that it might be reorganized with actions, communities, and ideas. Shambu is an influential film blogger, scholar, and critic who edits Film Quarterly's online initiative, Quorum. He teaches sustainability at Canisius College in Buffalo.