Mark Jonathan Harris is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, an award-winning children’s novelist, and a Distinguished Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California
Among the many documentaries he has written, produced and/or directed are Huelga!,the landmark film about Cesar Chavez and the Delano grape strike (1967); The Redwoods, a documentary made for the Sierra Club to help establish a redwood national park that won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary (1968); The Long Way Home, which won the Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary (1997); and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, that also won an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary (2000) and was recently selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for inclusion in its National Film Registry. Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives (2003), a documentary that he wrote on slavery in America, was nominated for an Emmy for a Nonfiction Special and Harris was nominated for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. Other documentaries which he has written, produced or executive produced include The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing, Darfur Now, Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, and most recently Code Black and Lost for Life.
He has also published five novels for children.
What’s Your NativeAdVantage:
What do you do best?
I think I’m a very good storyteller. I find ways to communicate ideas and concepts through stories.
What makes you the best?
Curiosity and empathy. Empathy is critical to making documentaries about the subjects which I’m passionate about. I always try to see the world through the eyes of the people I film and to understand the often tragic circumstances that have shaped their lives.
How will you become the best?
Every documentary I make poses fresh challenges. I always want to make a better film than I have before.
What are your aspirations?
I’m still trying to make films that provoke discussion about the pressing social and political issues that we face today. I hope my films can provide insight, perspective, awareness, illumination. I want to move people to address the social inequities and injustices in our world.
What fascinates you?
People fascinate me. Also how our past affects and shapes our present and our future.
I don’t really have a motto, but a belief that informs all my work is the idea that empathy, truly listening to another person, is an act of compassion that helps to humanize the world.
My wife, a psychologist, has supported me in all my ventures.
I rely on her wise counsel and insight.
I like to travel but am always happy to come back to our home in beautiful Topanga Canyon.
Movies, books, tennis and my grandchildren.