The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: Julie Mallozzi

Julie MallozziJulie Mallozzi makes documentary films that explore the links between cultures thrown together by history, between social and personal stories, and between past and present. At the heart of Julie's interest are the ways in which we "repurpose" culture and history to address contemporary social problems. Julie's films have won awards at festivals around the world and have screened in museums, universities, and on public television. Her debut film Once Removed tells the story of meeting her mother's family in China and learning about their involvement in China's complicated political history. Her recent film Monkey Dance reveals how traditional Cambodian dance helped three Cambodian-American teens navigate the minefields of urban adolescence. Julie received her BA from Harvard University, where she currently teaches.

The Body as an Archive of Experience

This week I’m driving up to Montréal to film the most bloody scene I’ve ever shot. My documentary film subject, Lalita Bharvani, is having open-heart surgery, and the hospital has surprisingly granted me permission to film in the operating room. I shoot as a one-woman band. I’m not 100% sure I can handle the sight of doctors sawing open the chest of someone I care about, and performing delicate surgery on her most vital organ.


Musings on the Filmmaker-Subject Relationship

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a memorial service for Sokhorn Sem, the mother of one of the subjects of my film Monkey Dance. The service was held at the Khmer Buddhist Temple in Chelmsford, Massachusetts (Wat Triratanaram). Sokhorn’s battle with breast cancer was the last of many difficult struggles in her life: surviving Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge genocide, fleeing through minefields and jungles to a Thai refugee camp, landing in the United States without job or language skills, and supporting her disabled husband and four sons in a violent neighborhood.


Storytelling as a Path to Justice

As a documentary filmmaker, naturally I am interested in telling a good story. My film subjects are often people who somehow repurpose culture or history to address problems they face. So my curiosity was piqued when I learned that several very different communities were using a Native American tradition the peacemaking circle to resolve conflicts and achieve justice. The peacemaking circle is an ancient indigenous tradition that brings people together to deal with community problems.