Cinema Visionaries

The Cinema Visionaries series has become an important event in the Bay Area community. Every year the series hosts a renowned filmmaker for an evening of conversation and film.

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Joshua Oppenheimer

Fall 2015: Film director Joshua Oppenheimer visits CCA Wednesday, November 4, when he'll give a lecture and meet with Film students for a master class earlier in the day.

His debut feature film, The Act of Killing (2012), was named Film of the Year by the Guardian and the Sight and Sound Film Poll and won 72 international awards.

The film also was nominated for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary, and has been released theatrically in 31 countries.

His second film, The Look of Silence (2014, 99 min), premiered in competition at the 71st Venice Film Festival, where it won five awards including the Grand Jury Prize, the international critics award (FIPRESCI Prize), and the European film critics award (FEDEORA Prize).

Since then The Look of Silence has received the Danish Academy Award for Best Documentary, the Danish Film Critics Prize for Best Documentary, and the prestigious Danish Arts Council Award.

Learn more about the filmmaker's awards »

Oppenheimer, a MacArthur grant recipient, is a partner at Final Cut for Real in Denmark and the artistic director of the Centre for Documentary and Experimental Film at the University of Westminster in London.

Alex Gibney

Spring 2015: Alex Gibney is an American documentary film director and producer. In 2010 Esquire magazine said Gibney "is becoming the most important documentarian of our time" and Utne Reader listed him as one of "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World."

Works by Gibney

Gibney has been honored by the Yale Film Studies program for his contributions to film culture.

Lisa Cholodenko


Spring 2014: Lisa Cholodenko is the writer and director of High Art (1998) and The Kids Are All Right (2010) starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo, which was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, and won two Golden Globes including Best Picture (comedy) and Best Actress (comedy) for Bening.

Other honors

  • Independent Spirit Award for Best Original Screenplay
  • The New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay
  • The Berlin Film Festival’s Teddy Award for Best Feature
  • BAFTA nomination for Best Original Screenplay
  • The American Film Institute’s list of best films of 2010
Werner Herzog

Fall 2012: German film director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and opera director Werner Herzog is often considered one of the greatest figures of the New German Cinema.

French filmmaker François Truffaut once called Herzog "the most important film director alive" and American film critic Roger Ebert stated that Herzog "has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons, or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular."

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President Stephen Beal and Michael Moore

Fall 2013: Michael Moore is an Academy Award-winning American filmmaker, author, social critic, and political activist. His written and cinematic works criticize large corporations, assault-weapon ownership, the Iraq War, the American health care system, and capitalism.

He directed and produced Fahrenheit 9/11, which is the highest-grossing documentary of all time and winner of the Palme d'Or. His films Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Sicko (2007) also placed in the top-ten highest-grossing documentaries, and the former won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Barbara Hammer

Fall 2012: Barbara Hammer, known for such experimental films as Nitrate Kisses (1992); its sequel, Tender Fictions (1996); Dyketactics (1974), and many other first-of-their-kind lesbian-themed films in history, is a pioneer of LGBT cinema and one of contemporary cinema's most important and fearless chroniclers of hidden histories of marginalized peoples.

CCA welcomed the iconic filmmaker for a performance/lecture, titled "Incorporating The Lesbian Museum and The Hidden Hammer."

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Gus Van Sant

Spring 2011: Cinema Visionaries featured maverick film director Gus Van Sant in a standing-room-only appearance.

"Gus Van Sant is not only a remarkable filmmaker but also a generous one," praised Film Program chair Rob Epstein. "As an artist, Gus Van Sant's films run the gamut from experimental to mainstream hits so, with that, he brought a very special wealth of experience and knowledge to our campus."

John Waters

Spring 2012: Legendary film director John Waters (Pink Flamingos, 1972; Female Trouble, 1974; Polyester, 1981; Hairspray, 1988; Cry Baby, 1990; Serial Mom, 1994; A Dirty Shame, 2004) made a special guest appearance at CCA for “John Waters in Conversation," copresented by the Design and Craft Lecture Series.

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Barry Jenkins

Fall 2011: CCA visiting faculty member and award-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins was featured in the second Cinema Visionaries lecture in November 2011.

His feature film debut, Medicine for Melancholy, was released in theaters by IFC Films and hailed as one of the best films of 2009 by A. O. Scott of the New York Times.

Other projects include the shorts Tall Enough, A Young Couple, Remigration, and Chlorophyl, all of which were highlighted at the event, followed by a Q&A.

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Lucy Walker

Spring 2013: Lucy Walker's documentaries have won over 50 film awards, and twice she has been nominated for an Academy Award: Waste Land (2010), a documentary feature that also won over 30 other awards including Audience Awards at both Sundance and Berlin; and The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (2011), about survivors of Japan’s 2011 tsunami, which also won the nonfiction jury prize at Sundance.

Sam Green

Spring 2013: CCA welcomed Oscar-nominated documentarian, experimental filmmaker, and performance cinema pioneer Sam Green, whose The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller features Green and seminal indie-rockers Yo La Tengo performing live with the film.

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Lourdes Portillo

Spring 2011
Acclaimed filmmaker and Oscar nominee Lourdes Portillo's films, which focus on the search for Latino identity, cover a varied range of forms, from television documentary to satirical video-film collage: Las madres de la Plaza de Mayo (1985); Señorita Extraviada, Missing Young Woman, (2001); My McQueen (2004); Al Más Allá (2008); Night Passages (2013)

Young Cinema Visionaries Lecture Series

Similarly, the new Young Cinema Visionaries also brings to CCA film industry professionals -- those whose careers have only recently taken off. Rachel Grady, codirector of Jesus Camp, The Boys of Baraka, 12th & Delaware, and Detropia, launched this exciting new series in fall 2012.

The Young Cinema Visionaries series is made possible by a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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