Thomas Allen Harris
Thomas Allen Harris is the founder and President of Chimpanzee Productions a company dedicated to producing unique audio-visual experiences that illuminate the Human Condition and the search for identity, family, and spirituality. Chimpanzee’s innovative and award-winning films have received critical acclaim at International film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, FESPACO, Outfest, Flaherty and Cape Town and have been broadcast on PBS, the Sundance Channel, ARTE, as well as CBC, Swedish Broadcasting Network and New Zealand Television. In addition, Harris’ videos and installations have been featured at prestigious museums and galleries including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Biennial, Corcoran Gallery, Reina Sophia, London Institute of the Arts and the Gwangju Biennale.
A published photographer, curator, and writer, Harris lectures widely on personal archiving and the use of media as a tool for social change. His media appearances include C-Span, the Tavis Smiley Show, NPR, Metrofocus, and AriseTV.
Born in the Bronx and raised in New York City and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Harris is a graduate of Harvard College and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program. Harris began his career producing for public television, for which he received several awards including two Emmy nominations (in 1991) for his work as a staff producer at WNET (New York’s PBS affiliate) on THE ELEVENTH HOUR. In 1990 he curated the first New York/San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Town Hall meeting, a three-hour public television event, which culminated in the broadcast of Marlon Riggs Tongues Untied.
After the success of several experimental short films, Harris completed his first feature, VINTAGE – Families of Value (1995), a documentary that looks at black families through the lens of Queer siblings. VINTAGE won Best Documentary at the Atlanta Film Festival, a Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival and was broadcast on Free Speech Television in 1999.
His next film, É Minha Cara/That’s My Face (2001) a queer mythopoetic journey through the African Diaspora, premiered at the Toronto, Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals and won seven international awards, including the Best Documentary at Outfest and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury of Christian Churches at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival. The film was broadcast on the Sundance Channel as well as on ARTE, the CBC and YLE.
Harris’ 2005 film, Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, won Best Documentary at the Pan-African and the Santa Cruz Film Festivals, the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking at the Roxbury Film Festival and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award before being broadcast nationally on the POV documentary series as well as Swedish and New Zealand Television.
Mr. Harris’ newly released film, Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary (Theatrical), the Fund for Santa Barbara 2014 Social Justice Award and a Best Diasporic Documentary Award from the Africa Movie Academy Awards in Nigeria. Called “Wise and Passionate” by the New York Times and “Extraordinary” by Time Magazine, Through A Lens Darkly is presently opening in theaters across the country, accompanied by its transmedia community engagement project Digital Diaspora Family Reunion (1world1family.me), an interactive forum that combines film, photography, social media and oral histories in a live touring event. Since 2009, Digital Diaspora has held 18 Roadshows in 9-cities, and received in excess of 10 million media impressions.
Harris' 2014 documentary work Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People is documentary about Black photographers and an interactive multi-platform project that provides a new look at the Black photographic archive. He is also Executive Producing a documentary about Queer Africans seeking exile in Canada.
Harris is a recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a Tribeca Film Institute’s Nelson Mandela Award, and United States Artist Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Rockefeller Fellowship, as well as CPB/PBS and Sundance Directors Fellowships. Harris has taught, written and lectured widely on media. He has curated for Gay and Lesbian film festivals including Mix and Outfest. He has also held positions as Associate Professor of Media Arts at the University of California San Diego and a Visiting Professor of Film and New Media at Sarah Lawrence College.