A group of people with recording equipment next to a group of children.

Alexandra Halkin

Arts Professional
Artist in Residence, 2019

A portrait of a person against a light background.

Artist Statement

I grew up in an activist household—my mother was a feminist and Vietnam war activist, and from an early age I was prepped to have an awareness of other cultures, to think globally, and to organize. My curatorial and film work in Cuba and within Mexico’s Zapatista and indigenous communities is directly informed by those early years, observing my mother’s activism in Chicago.

I learned the importance of self-representation and the difference between telling your own story versus having someone else tell it. I learned that film creates a public space, an entry point to public discussion around topics of global concern, and may empower audiences toward civic engagement. And over the years I’ve even learned to foster these collaborative working processes with filmmakers as well as film related institutions.

I began my documentary work in Cuba in 1991, filming Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro’s first meeting. This year I hand over my entire Mexico archive to New York University (NYU), the first archive of an indigenous media project to be housed at a US university.

While at Headlands

NYU has asked to create an archive of all media and relevant materials produced by my organization, the Chiapas Media Project (Promedios,) spanning my 20 years working in collaboration with Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico. Part of my time at Headlands will be used to create metadata from the materials included in the NYU archive.

I will also continue exploring new ways to help create space for independent film in Cuba, while minimizing the complications I experience from the US’s economic embargo of Cuba. I’ve already begun discussions in Havana about the possibility of collaborating on a community media project for Afro-Cuban/LGBTQ youth in the neighborhood of Cerro. I’m well integrated into the Cuban film community, with the contacts and trust necessary to achieve this. During my residency at Headlands I’ll work on these negotiations via email, and schedule necessary trips to Cuba so that I may directly discuss plans with my collaborators there.

Selected Works

“Outside the Indigenous Lens: Zapatistas and Autonomous Video-making”
MoMA Film Program
“Stories that Resonate: New Cultures of Documentary Filmmaking in Cuba,” 2014, LASAForum

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Dispatch from Alexandra Halkin