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Nancy Kates

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Nancy Kates is an independent filmmaker based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She directed Regarding Susan Sontag, a feature documentary about the late essayist, novelist, director and activist.[1] Through archival footage, interviews, still photographs and images from popular culture, the film reflects the boldness of Sontag’s work and the cultural importance of her thought,[2] and received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities,[3] the National Endowment for the Arts,[4] the Foundation for Jewish Culture[5] and the Sundance Documentary Film Program.[6]

Kates is best known for her film Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, a full-length documentary she made with co-producer Bennett Singer about Bayard Rustin, the gay civil rights leader.[7] The film premiered on the PBS series POV[8] and at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival,[9] and received numerous awards, including the 2004 GLAAD Media Award and audience awards at the major American gay and lesbian film festivals. It also received the award for best feature film at New York’s New Festival and a number of jury prizes.[10] "In the struggle for African-American dignity, Rustin was perhaps the most critical figure that many people have never heard of," says a review in TIME Magazine, "but neither mainstream society nor even the civil rights leadership could cope with his honesty."[11] Hailed as "marvelous" by The Wall Street Journal,[12] "packed with information" by The New York Times,[13] and "beautifully crafted" by The Boston Globe,[14] the Village Voice commends the film for "vividly bring[ing] back to life a man who deeply and brilliantly influenced the course of the civil rights and peace movements."[15]

In 1995, Kates' master's thesis for Stanford University's film program, Their Own Vietnam, won a Student Academy Award in documentary.[16] The film tells the stories of five American women who served in the Vietnam War, including a couple who met while serving. It presents a complex picture of their identities as women, using archival footage, home movies and snapshots.[17] The film screened at the Sundance Film Festival,[18] South by Southwest Film Festival,[19] the Boston International Festival of Women’s Cinema, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival among others, aired on public television, and received an award of merit from the International Documentary Association / David Wolper Awards.[20] The Journal of American History praised the film, saying that the "complex melding of images from the Vietnam conflict culled from newsreel footage, snapshots, and military recruiting films with the jarringly honest recollections of five female veterans makes this an extremely compelling film,"[21] and LA Weekly praised it for its "transformations fraught with anger, pain, unimaginable guilt and sometimes joy - and the honesty with which they're brought to light."[22]

Her previous films include Castro Cowboy, a short film about the late Marlboro model Christen Haren who died of AIDS in 1996, Joining the Tribe, Married People, and Going to Extremes.[23] A 1984 honors graduate of Harvard University, Kates worked for several years at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government writing public policy case-studies.[24] She is a former producer of the PBS series Computer Chronicles, and has worked as a producer, writer, and story consultant on various documentary projects. She also speaks frequently at schools, colleges and universities.[25]


Brother Outsider

Their Own Vietnam

Castro Cowboy


  • Joining the Tribe
  • Married People
  • Going to Extremes
  • Castro Cowboy (1992). 7 minutes
  • Their Own Vietnam (1995). 23 minutes
  • Vale of Tears (2002). 4 minutes
  • Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (2003) 84 minutes

External links


  1. ^ Michael Fox, "Kates is in a Sontag state of mind" SF360 (accessed May 16, 2011)
  2. ^ Nancy Kates, "Regarding Susan Sontag: A Documentary Film Project"(accessed May 16, 2011)
  3. ^ "NEH announces $16 million in awards and offers for 286 humanities projects" National Endowment for the Humanities (accessed May 17, 2011)
  4. ^ "FY 2010 Grant Awards: Arts on Radio and Television" National Endowment for the Arts (accessed May 17, 2011)
  5. ^ "Films on Susan Sontag, Joann Sfar Receive Hefty Grant" The Arty Semite (accessed May 17, 2011) and "Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film" The Foundation for Jewish Culture (accessed May 17, 2011)
  6. ^ "Regarding Susan Sontag" Sundance Institute Documentary (accessed May 17, 2011)
  7. ^ Rona Marech, "O 'Brother' who art thou? Berkeley filmmaker ponders life of gay civil rights hero,", San Francisco Chronicle, January 16, 2003 (accessed May 16, 2011), and Michael Fox, "Berkeley filmmaker pays homage to overlooked civil rights activist," S.F. Jewish Bulletin (accessed March 30, 2007)
  8. ^ "POV: Brother Outsider" PBS (accessed May 16, 2011)
  9. ^ Shannon Kelley, "Brother Outsider Institute History, Sundance Institute (accessed May 23, 2011)
  10. ^ "Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin" (accessed May 23, 2011)
  11. ^ Andrew Sullivan "The Invisible Man" TIME Magazine, January 20, 2003 (accessed May 23, 2011)
  12. ^ Joshua Muravchik, "Marquee at Last" The Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2003 (accessed May 23, 2011)
  13. ^ Elvis Mitchell, "Critic's Notebook; A Comeback for Sundance, Documentaries Leading the Way The New York Times, January 20, 2003 (accessed May 23, 2011)
  14. ^ Matthew Gilbert, "PBS Offers Inside Look at Civil-Rights Outsider: A Fascinating Look at Life of a Gay, Black Pacifist" Boston Globe, January 20, 2003 (accessed May 23, 2011)
  15. ^ Nat Hentoff, "An Indispensable Gay Man: His 1963 March on Washington 'Woke Up America' Village Voice, January 14, 2003 (accessed May 23, 2011)
  16. ^ "Student Academy Award Winners" The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  17. ^ Thinh Nguyen. "Vietnam through Women's Eyes," Harvard Magazine. September–October 1996 (accessed March 30, 2007)
  18. ^ "Their Own Vietnam" Institute History, Sundance Institute (accessed May 23, 2011)
  19. ^ "Nancy Kates"
  20. ^ Susan Fisher, "Telling their own story," Minuteman, Lexington MA, 1996
  21. ^ Leisa D. Meye, "Their Own Vietnam," The Journal of American History Vol. 85, No. 3, December 1998
  22. ^ "Their Own Vietnam," LA Weekly, November 22–28, 1996
  23. ^ Dennis Conkin, "Local PBS to show documentary on lesbians in Vietnam," Bay Area Reporter, May 22, 1997, p. 21
  24. ^ "The Case Program: Nancy Kates" Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government and Christopher Amar, "Nancy Kates wins medal in student film competition," Concord Journal, July 20, 1995
  25. ^ "Project Team: Nancy D. Kates" Regarding Susan Sontag
  • Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival Records [1](Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival Records, 1983-1994, CTC.1994.02, Curtis Theatre Collection, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh)