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IC Documentarians

Incongruities Investigator

Nisma Zaman ’92 solidified her passion for documentary filmmaking at IC, where she began work on a short 16mm film exploring mixed-race identities. Beyond Black and White went on to debut at the Asian American International Film Festival in 1995 and remains in distribution with Women Make Movies.

After graduating, Zaman began a four-year stint at the New York Center for Visual History, a nonprofit arts and culture documentary organization, where she worked on a variety of productions including the PBS series American Cinema. Simultaneously she moonlighted on the postproduction of Jennifer Fox’s acclaimed film series American Love Story, following the lives of an interracial family. In 1996 Zaman served as a production coordinator on Walk This Way, a program exploring children’s experiences of race and difference for USA Network’s “Erase the Hate” campaign. This provided a perfect segue into her ever-increasing role on Nickelodeon’s Little Bill, a 52-episode digital animation series based on Bill Cosby’s children’s books, for which she won an Emmy as a coordinating producer.

Zaman (above, at right) with her Peace by Peace coproducer, Lisa Hepner; (below) with her Ice Docs associate Brigette Altenhaus and Dallas crew last July

Zaman then returned to documentary with her role as a producer on Peace by Peace: Women on the Frontlines, profiling peace-builders in Afghanistan, Argentina, Bosnia, Burundi, and the United States. Narrated by Jessica Lange, the film premiered at the United Nations in October 2003 and was broadcast on PBS in 2004. Zaman is now a media producer at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), which provides expert assistance to countries pursuing accountability for mass human rights abuses.

You may detect a theme in Zaman’s work. “I’m driven by a desire to understand the complexities of diversity,” she says. “For instance, when and how should it be celebrated? What differences trigger conflicts, and how can they be solved? Each new project is a journey, resulting in the potential to open someone’s eyes.”

Recently Zaman is looking at a little-known subculture: adult competitive figure skating. With the assistance of her friend and fellow skater Brigitte Altenhaus, she created a production company, Ice Docs, and began work on a feature documentary following skaters to the 2006 national competition. “Nobody here is going to the Olympics, so I’m curious why adults would devote so much time, money, and energy to such an anxiety-ridden, injury-inducing sport,” Zaman says. Secret Skaters is in postproduction and, pending funding, is expected to be completed this spring.

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Rich Newberg '69
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Susannah Ludwig '93