Joshua Seftel

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Joshua Seftel
Born (1968-07-17) July 17, 1968 (age 48)
Schenectady, New York, US
Occupation Director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1992–present

Joshua Seftel (born July 17, 1968) is an American filmmaker.[1] Born in Schenectady, New York, Seftel graduated from Tufts University in the class of 1990 as a pre-med and French literature major. He currently lives in New York City and is represented by Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles. Seftel directed the feature film comedy War, Inc. (2008), a political satire about an American assassin sent on a mission to a war zone in Central Asia, starring John Cusack, Hilary Duff, Marisa Tomei, Joan Cusack, and Ben Kingsley. He also directed the award-winning documentary about American campaign politics, Taking on the Kennedys.


Documentary films[edit]

Seftel began his career in documentaries. At age 22, he received a National Emmy Nomination for his first film, Lost and Found: the Story of Romania’s Forgotten Children,[2] a documentary about the plight of Romania’s 120,000 orphaned and abandoned children. Seftel lived in orphanages for several weeks while shooting the film. The Public Television broadcast of the film, which Seftel made for only $2,000, led to hundreds of adoptions of Romanian orphans and helped raise money and awareness for the cause.

Old Warrior, (1994) Seftel’s next film, is a documentary about the forgotten history of the Senior Citizens Power Movement and its founder, Frank J. Manning and received the Gold Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival and was broadcast on Public TV.

In 1996, Seftel produced Taking on the Kennedys[3] for the PBS series P.O.V.[4] which followed the campaign of Republican candidate Kevin Vigilante as he challenged Patrick J. Kennedy for a U.S. Congressional seat in Rhode Island. Taking on the Kennedys was named on TIME's list "The Best Television of 1996"[5] and has been anthologized in P.O.V.’s 20th Anniversary Collection DVD set.[6]

Seftel's next film was Ennis’ Gift, an HBO documentary about learning differences produced with Bill Cosby and wife Camille Hanks in memory of their late son Ennis, which featured Danny Glover, James Earl Jones, Anne Bancroft, Robert Rauschenberg, Charles Schwab and Caitlyn Jenner (then Bruce).[a] It has been called "inspirational" by The Boston Globe and received the 2002 Literacy in Media Award from the Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles.

Scripted work[edit]

Seftel broke into scripted film work with Breaking the Mold: The Kee Malesky Story[8] that told the fictional story of one young librarian’s quest to defeat toxic, asthma-inducing mold. The title character borrows the name of real-life NPR librarian Kee Malesky. The humorous film originated when Maryland Public Television asked Seftel to make a fictional piece about indoor air quality for middle-school aged children. The film played at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, the Newport International Film Festival, the Austin Film Festival and won the Jury Prize at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival. Breaking the Mold was shown at the One Reel Film Festival in Seattle where director Alexander Payne was a judge.

Feature films[edit]

After seeing the film Breaking the Mold, director Alexander Payne championed Seftel as a director of features and put him in touch with John Cusack and Mark Leyner who were taken with Seftel's work. This led to Seftel directing the feature film War, Inc., starring Cusack, and co-written by Leyner, Cusack, and Jeremy Pikser. War, Inc. premiered at the 7th Annual Tribeca Film Festival in April 2008 and played nationally in theaters. The movie is a political satire set in Turaqistan, a fictional country occupied by an American private corporation run by a former US Vice-President (Dan Aykroyd). In an effort to monopolize the opportunities the war-torn nation offers, the corporation's CEO hires a troubled hit man (Cusack), to kill a Middle Eastern oil minister. Struggling with his own growing demons, the assassin must pose as the corporation's Trade Show Producer in order to pull off this latest hit, while maintaining his cover by organizing the high-profile wedding of Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff), an outrageous Middle Eastern pop star, and keeping a sexy left wing reporter (Marisa Tomei) in check.[9]

Television, radio, and print journalism[edit]

Seftel has also worked in television, producing for ABC Turning Point, CBS Evening News, CBS Sunday Morning, PBS' Nova Science Now series and the award-winning public radio program This American Life. At CBS News, Seftel was brought in by then Executive Vice President Jonathan Klein (current President of CNN) to pioneer the use of the mini-DV format at the network.

For This American Life, Seftel produced a 1997 radio documentary entitled Trek[10] about an exploration of race and friendship in post-apartheid South Africa. He also produced a segment called “Still Life” in episode #2 “My Way” for This American Life[11] the television show, which aired on Showtime in 2007. Seftel also adapted NPR's popular This I Believe series from radio to public television for WGBH Boston. Seftel's short stories and articles have been featured on NPR,, and The Seattle Times.

Reality television[edit]

In reality television, Seftel directed the first two seasons of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and received a National Emmy Award Nomination for his work on the series. He also helped develop the A&E series Confessions of a Matchmaker, featuring Patti Novak, directing the series pilot, and served as Supervising Producer for the series. Seftel also developed the Emmy-nominated PBS children's reality game show Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman and directed the inaugural season.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Seftel was awarded a National Arts Journalism Fellowship[12] at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Columbia University School of the Arts in 2003.


  1. ^ Jenner changed her name due to gender transition in 2015.[7]


  1. ^ Joshua Seftel
  2. ^ New York Times review of "Lost and Found: the Story of Romania's Forgotten Children"
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-20.  Taking on the Kennedys
  4. ^ P.O.V. "Taking on the Kennedys"
  5. ^,9171,985747-2,00.html TIME Magazine "The Best Television Of 1996"
  6. ^ P.O.V.'s 20th Anniversary Collection DVD set
  7. ^ Buzz Bissinger (June 1, 2015). "Introducing Caitlyn Jenner". Vanity Fair. Retrieved June 1, 2015. 
  8. ^ New York Times review of "Breaking the Mold: The Kee Malesky Story"
  9. ^ War, Inc. (2008) Plot Summary on
  10. ^ This American Life Episode 72 "Trek"
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-10.  This American Life television show, episode 2
  12. ^ najp:

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