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Filmmaker Tells About Documentary

Documentary Director Shola Lynch Gave the Mellon Lecture in Public History

UCR graduate shared her experiences making a Peabody Award-winning film about Shirley Chisholm

(May 12, 2006)

Shola Lynch (Photo by Sandi Sissel)Enlarge

Shola Lynch (Photo by Sandi Sissel)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — University of California, Riverside graduate Shola Lynch gave this year’s Knox and Carlotta Mellon Lecture in Public History on Friday, May 12.

She described her experiences making a television documentary about the groundbreaking Presidential bid of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to run for president.

Her talk, which was free and open to the public, centered on the documentary she directed, “CHISHOLM ’72 — Unbought & Unbossed,” which was featured at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and on “P.O.V.”, American television’s longest-running independent documentary series. The project also won the George Foster Peabody Award.

Lynch worked several years on the project, her directorial debut. “Our goal was to make a documentary as passionate and powerful as Chisholm herself,” she said. “Her story is an important reminder of the power of a dedicated individual to make a difference.” It also reminds us that the country belongs to each of us only if we dare to claim our place in it.

Lynch previously worked with Ken Burns and Florentine Films on the Peabody Award-winning Frank Lloyd Wright and the ten-part JAZZ series. She has also worked on the Emmy Award-winning HBO sports documentary, “Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team.

Lynch grew up in New York City, where she currently lives. A nationally ranked track athlete in the 800m and 1500m, she did her undergraduate work at the University of Texas before earning a master’s degree in American history from UC Riverside in 1995. Her thesis was an exhibition at the UCR/California Museum of Photography titled “How Far Have We Come? Past and Present Images of African Americans.” She is currently developing her next documentary project.

“I had a great experience at UCR,” Lynch said. “I wanted to be a museum curator and I had three professors who were influential, Sterling Stuckey, Carlos Cortes, and Jonathan Green, who is the director of the UCR/CMP.”

She said Professor Stuckey held her to a high standard of scholarship. Prof. Cortes was a stickler for explaining things well, and also told a funny story on himself about his own experience with documentary film-making. “And Jonathan Green, I pitched him an idea for a photo exhibition. He said, ‘okay, if you can raise the money.’ I did it and the show turned out so well. Making a film is exactly the same,” Lynch said. “You have the idea, raise the money and implement the idea.”

“I learned so much and it was completely applicable to documentary film-making,” she said.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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