American Film Showcase

The American Film Showcase program consists of two primary components; person-to-person diplomacy trips in which envoys travel to selected countries for 7-10 days of targeted programming, and an on-going AFS screening series at participating embassies and consulates over the course of the year. Each AFS trip usually consists of two AFS film envoys: the filmmaker of a featured AFS film, and an AFS film expert. Pairing a film expert with an AFS filmmaker allows the activities to go beyond screenings and Q&As to include workshops and master classes. This often deepens the impact of the program in terms of conveying the power of filmmaking. The expert offers a distinct set of skills that the filmmaker may not possess, from providing a broader historical framework for the making and reception of documentary films to film fundraising, and can provide context and insight into the big picture of filmmaking.

In addition to the person-to-person component of AFS, embassies will have the opportunity to develop on-going programming with AFS films before and after the envoys visit. The selected AFS films will be divided into three thematic modules – Women and Girls Empowerment, Youth Empowerment, Diversity and Civil Society. The ECA will assign each participating country one thematic module and the AFS office will send the embassy all of the films in that module. The Embassy may screen their designated AFS films, at embassy-sponsored events, up to one year after the end of the AFS 2014 program year. In past years, some embassies have chosen to include a virtual Q&A with a filmmaker when they are screening the film outside the context of an envoy visit.

AFS Staff

Alan Baker
Associate Dean of Administration & International Projects at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. His experience includes initiation and oversight of several international programs, including 3 years supervising the DoS USC Fusion Arts Exchange summer program from 2007 to 2009, which brought 20 international university students to SCA for 5-week workshops. He is the principal liaison for academic programs in cinematic arts with government and private sector organizations in Qatar, Dubai, India, Malaysia and other locales.  Prior to coming to USC, he had 25 years of television programming and production experience at 20th Century Fox, Paramount Television, and public television.

Mark J. Harris
Distinguished Professor and Co-Head of Advanced Documentary Production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, he has taught filmmaking at SCA since 1983. Among his many works are The Redwoods, which won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary; The Long Way Home, which won the Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary; Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, which also won an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary; Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives, an Emmy-nominated HBO documentary; and Darfur Now, which won an NAACP Image Award.

Michael Renov
Michael Renov, Professor of Critical Studies and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at SCA, is a documentary scholar and co-founder of Visible Evidence, an international and highly interdisciplinary documentary studies conference begun in 1993.  He is the author or editor of seven books including The Subject of Documentary and Theorizing Documentary.

Alessandro Ago
SCA Director of Programming and Special Projects, he has extensive experience and expertise in programming film screenings, festivals, guest speakers and special events. Both an Italian and American citizen, he grew up in Washington D.C. and Rome, Italy. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the USC School of Cinematic Arts Critical Studies division.

Rachel Gandin
American Film Showcase Program Administrator.  Most recently, Rachel produced Walt Disney International Productions’ first Arabic-language feature, The United, to be released in 2012. She has served for the past 5 years as a creative consultant for the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab in Jordan.  Rachel founded the Arab Film Festival in Los Angeles and has worked at 20th Century Fox and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. She received an M.A. in Arabic from Georgetown University and lived in Cairo, Egypt for more than 3 years.

Jennifer Phan
American Film Showcase Program Assistant. Jennifer was a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by the ECA at the U.S. Department of State, and spent two years studying and volunteering in various countries including Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, and the United Kingdom. She majored in Business Administration at the University of California, Riverside and has a great passion for film. Jennifer also interned at DreamWorks Animation and Live Nation Entertainment with Ticketmaster.com.

USC School of Cinematic Arts

Founded in 1929, USC became the first university in the county to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in film. The school’s founding faculty included Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, William C. DeMille, Ernst Lubitsch, Irving Thalberg, and Darryl Zanuck, among others. Since its founding, the School of Cinematic Arts has had a profound impact on feature and independent film, television, film studies, animation, documentaries, commercials, and most recently, interactive media. Our over 10,000 living alumni include scholars in teaching institutions throughout the world, artists, technicians, writers, directors, and industry executives, many operating at the highest levels in their fields. These men and women have been honored with every major award available in the motion picture and television arts, ranging from Oscars and Emmys to accolades presented by American and international film festivals, and associations representing alternative and independent cinema.

The school continues to build upon its legacy by redefining its curriculum to fit the changing spectrum of media arts and technology and strives to lead the way in every aspect of motion picture and television production, education and scholarly study.  For more information about the school, we invite you to visit our website.

U.S. Department of State 

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), begun in 1961 by the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, is responsible for a broad-based variety of programs in more than 160 countries through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges.  ECA programs encourage the involvement of American and international participants from traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities.

ECA exchange program alumni include more than one million people around the world, including more than 50 Nobel Laureates and over 3,560 current and former heads of state and government.  In 2009, more than 90,000 students traveled to and from the U.S. as part of this program.  Amongst the specific ECA programs are the Fulbright Program for Scholars, Fulbright U.S. Student Program, U.S. participation in international cultural Biennales, traveling exhibitions, and numerous others.

For a broad overview of the ECA’s public diplomacy programming read more here.

Visit the Exchanges Connect site, an international online community managed by the ECA that connects potential, current, and former educational and cultural exchange program participants so that they can discuss application processes, programs, and living abroad.


International Documentary Association (IDA)  Founded in 1982, the IDA is a non-profit that promotes nonfiction filmmakers, and is dedicated to increasing public awareness for the documentary genre.  The IDA believes that the power and artistry of the documentary art form are vital to cultures and societies globally, and they exist to serve the needs of those who create this art form. Their major program areas are: Advocacy, Filmmaker Services, Education, and Public Programs and Events.

Film Independent  Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, build an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry.  Their mission is to champion the cause of independent film and support a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision.