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Faculty Feats: Michael Whalen

Monday, May. 6, 2013

Michael Whalen’s latest film, Gringos at the Gate, explores the political, economic and cultural rivalry between Mexico and the United States as it plays out on the soccer field when their national teams face off. Michael is the editor, co-writer, co-producer and co-director of the documentary, which took him to both U.S.-Mexico 2010 World Cup Qualifiers, the 2011 Gold Cup Final, and across both countries interviewing fans, players, coaches, commentators and people on the street to discover the power and influence a 90-minute game can have on so many lives. In June, the documentary premiered at the Kicking+Screening Film Festival in New York, followed by sold out screenings in Los Angeles and Portland in September. It earned an Award of Merit from the Accolade Awards and an Honorable Mention from the Columbus International Film Festival "Chris Awards." A Question of Habit, a full-length documentary produced and edited by Michael, was broadcast in July on KQED, the San Francisco Bay Area’s popular public television station. The film is narrated by Susan Sarandon and examines the depiction of Catholic nuns in contemporary popular American culture. It has garnered several honors, including an Award of Excellence from the Broadcast Education Association. 

"Both of these films help audiences see a reality from someone else's perspective —whether it be the experiences of nuns in the U.S. or Mexican-Americans,” Michael said. “Every time I make a film I try to turn the story over to my subjects. I try to stay out of the way and let the audience experience something different, learn something new and empower the subjects. It's how I teach as well. I want my students to feel free to tell any story, no matter how personal, difficult or controversial it might be. When that kind of honesty is practiced great films are created."

Tags: documentary filmmaking, Michael Whalen