Dr. Alexandra Juhasz: Chair, Film Department, Brooklyn College & Filmmaker

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Bio:

Dr. Alexandra Juhasz is Chair of the Film Department, Brooklyn College. She makes and studies committed media practices that contribute to political change and individual and community growth. She is the author of AIDS TV: Identity, Community and Alternative Video (Duke University Press, 1995), Women of Vision: Histories in Feminist Film and Video (University of Minnesota Press, 2001), F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing, co-edited with Jesse Lerner (Minnesota, 2005), Learning from YouTube (MIT Press, 2011), A Companion to Contemporary Documentary Film, co-edited with Alisa Lebow (Blackwell Press, 2015), and Sisters in the Life: 25 Years of African-American Lesbian Filmmaking, co-edited with Yvonne Welbon (Duke University Press, 2018).

Dr. Juhasz is also the producer of educational videotapes on feminist issues from AIDS to teen pregnancy.  She has directed the feature documentaries SCALE: Measuring Might in the Media Age (2008), Video Remains (2005), Dear Gabe (2003) and Women of Vision: 18 Histories in Feminist Film and Video (1998), and the shorts RELEASED: 5 Short Videos about Women and Film (2000) and Naming Prairie (2001), a Sundance Film Festival, 2002, official selection. She is the producer of the feature films The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1997) and The Owls (Dunye, 2010). She and Anne Balsamo were the first co-facilitators of the network, FemTechNet, which debuted its feminist rethinking of a MOOC, a Distributed Online Open Course in 2013. The “Dialogues in Feminist Technology” project continues at femtechnet.newschool.edu. Her current work is on fake news, online feminist pedagogy, YouTube, and other more radical uses of digital media. Her work in critical digital studies and community is happening  at #100hardtruths-#fakenews and ev-ent-anglement.com.

What do I do best?

Not to be contrarian, but I’m not a “best of” sort of person, although I am pretty good at challenging things that don’t feel right to me! I am proud of my skills and accomplishments as a woman who productively links ideas, images, political commitments, and people into ethical collaborations through which things that I value get done and made. I call this “media praxis”: theorizing and making media towards stated projects of world and self-changing. But saying I’m “the best” at this would be a disservice to the very thing I’m always working at being better at as a student and teacher of history, movements and collectives, projects and ideas, and other people.

What makes me the best version of myself?

I have an almost endless capacity and desire for productive engagement: with the world, with others, with art, ideas, and with my body and mind. I make and do a lot and take real joy from this activity, or at least profound located satisfaction, every time I do so, which is all the time! At my best, I do this generously, openly, and with some kindness. That is, I am at my best when I contribute my specific and strong energy, focus, intelligence, and creativity while attending to and aligning with the real capacities of others.

What are my aspirations?

I am a 54-year old feminist-queer-mother-professor-artist in a society that uses all its muscle to diminish my hard-won sense of self. My aspirations are to both enjoy and ethically use the real power and knowledge I have earned through my still-endless productivity while always learning more, with humility.

My Biggest Success?

I am raising two brilliant, idiosyncratic teenagers, through two marriages and within a vibrant community of care, while making movies, writing books, teaching students, and trying to be a good person. My biggest success is having landed right here—a place from which I can watch my children develop into adulthood while also contributing myself as the empowered middle-aged professional mother, artist, and activist I have become.

My Most Challenging Moment?

I forgave and still forgive a person in my life who did something to me, irreparable and unforgivable, which gets me back to my first answer: why I can’t be “the best” at anything, nor why I would want to be. To stay open to the worst of someone I love is an ongoing challenge that allows me to stay productive, weak, and strong in my own daily dose.

My Motto?

N/A

My Favorite People/Role Models?

My favorite role models are my beloved collaborators, who are as various as are the projects and worlds that we have built together. Days go by and life intervenes. People get busy and their strange neuroses bundle into quirky distractions. And then, we meet, to write essays that have been bundled into a book (Ted Kerr), or to edit an anthology on black lesbian filmmaking (Yvonne Welbon). We push up our sleeves and make a short documentary video about the current state of African American and AIDS (Ellen Spiro, Cheryl Dunye, Jennifer Steinman). Or we build “Fake News Poetry Workshops” together, even though I don’t know much about poetry or even most of my collaborating poets (until we meet to teach, learn and make art and activism together). My role models are real people with whom I make things and the world.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I enjoy the unfolding delights of Brooklyn, a place I have lived for only a year or so.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I take deep pleasure in things people have given me, and talismans from people who I have lost. My grandmother’s ivory and gold hoop earrings (not sure if they are “real”); my best friend Jim’s (lost to AIDS in the early 1990s) cowboy leather jacket from the 80s, weighted by his memory; my mother’s beautiful simple elegant old-fashioned engagement ring from my father (they’ve both been remarried since); the boots I wear currently, gifted to me in December from Carollee Schneeman after a day’s interview and visit to her home in upstate NY. We have the same shoe size but recent afflictions allow her to only wear soft shoes. CD collections of one season’s songs compiled by my boyfriend, already evocative of a recent but lost summer. I listen to this with extra enthusiasm because I can’t play my records right now. My favorite always-cheap and now long-broken 1960s console can’t be repaired, it seems. Like all I have mentioned above, it's a frustrating, sobering, and useful reminder that no thing, or one, is flawless, or lasts, or works at its best forever. Hence, do it, live it, love it, now.

My Current Passions?

I wish I had current passions! My passions have always been the same. Since I’ve been a girl! They’ve only gotten thicker (and oddly thinner, too, thanks Internet!). Reading. Writing. Running. Walking.

Dancing. Family. Friends. Movies. Art. Coffee and mushrooms. Talking. Romance and intimacy. The state of the world and my meager but real place in living in it while trying to change it for the better.