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Sundance Appoints Cara Mertes as Director of Documentary Film Program

Sundance Institute

announced the appointment of Cara Mertes as the new Director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program. Mertes, who is currently the Executive Director of American Documentary, Inc., and Executive Producer of the PBS documentary showcase P.O.V., has an extensive background in independent non-fiction filmmaking and producing, as well as years of experience in programming, production and fundraising in film, television and on-line.

In her new position, Mertes will oversee all of the initiatives of the Documentary Film Program, including the Sundance Documentary Fund, the annual Documentary Edit and Story Laboratory, the annual Documentary Composers Laboratory, the House of Docs programming at the Filmmaker Lodge at the Sundance Film Festival, and ongoing, year-round support for documentary filmmakers. She will also be responsible for curating documentary series with partner institutions, acting as liaison with other Sundance entities on documentary initiatives and representing the Institute in the international documentary community. Mertes will officially start her new position this summer and she will be involved in planning the Documentary Film Labs to be held at Sundance Resort in Utah.

The Documentary Film Program was created in 2000 and expanded in 2001 to include the Sundance Documentary Fund, formerly the Soros Documentary Fund of the Open Society Institute. Today, the Documentary Fund, with the support of OSI and the Ford Foundation, provides documentary filmmakers from around the world with financial grants totalling up to $1 million a year. Formerly under the direction of Diane Weyermann, the Documentary Film Program provides year-round support to and nurtures the growth of nonfiction filmmakers, encourages the exploration of innovative nonfiction storytelling and promotes the exhibition of documentary films to broader audiences.

Mertes is a long time advocate for independent media artists, and an award-winning filmmaker, programmer, teacher and writer whose work has been featured widely in museums, festivals, on PBS and internationally. Since joining P.O.V. in 2000 as Executive Producer, she has been responsible for all aspects of the organization. In that time, Mertes has been nominated for fourteen national News and Documentary Emmys, winning five. She has been recognized with three George Foster Peabody Awards, two duPont-Columbia Awards, and two Academy Award nominations as P.O.V.’s Executive Producer.

In addition, she is creator and Executive Producer of P.O.V.’s original on-line showcase, P.O.V.’s Borders, winner of a Webby Award, a Batten Journalism Award, an On-Line Journalism and Parent’s Choice Award, and she has executive produced over 70 original web sites for the series’ films.

Prior to P.O.V., Mertes was the Executive Producer/Director/Writer of the award-winning SIGNAL TO NOISE: Life with Television, a three-hour PBS series examining the impact of television in everyday life. From 1988-1997, Mertes produced New Television for public television, an annual NEA-funded public television series featuring international experimental video and filmmakers. From 1988-1993, she programmed and produced Independent Focus for WNET/New York, then the premier public television showcase for American independent video and film. Mertes has also been an adjunct professor, has advised and served on the boards of many non-profit and media related organizations, and been a speaker and panelist at numerous film schools, film festivals, and art centers.

She graduated from Vassar College with honors in Film Studies and English, was a Helena Rubenstein Fellow in Curatorial Studies at the Whitney Independent Studies Program and attended Trinity College, Dublin. She is currently completing her Masters at Hunter College in Film and Media Studies with a specialization in independent documentary in public life. Mertes is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.