We’re Making a New Film

Nov 20, 2014

Welcome to the Documentary Foundation’s first ever monthly newsletter, where we’ll share progress on our work, let you know about upcoming events, and give you a behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process.


We’ve been on a journey. Over the past eight years, we’ve worked on films in China, Mongolia, Nigeria, Lebanon, Cyprus, France, Germany, and the United States. We’ve covered topics ranging from China’s Uyghur Muslim minority to the amazing competitors of the Senior Olympics. Along the way, we’ve seen some successes—our films have reached more than 5 million viewers on PBS, generated more than $1.3 million in revenues, and been featured on NPR, ABC, CBS, HLN, CNN, and Fox News.

But late last year when we sat down to contemplate our next project, we knew we wanted to do something different. We wanted to fuse together our work as documentarians with our shared passion for social and political thought. We wanted to explore the idea that the best way to meet America’s most pressing challenges is through bottom up, community-driven change.

Inspired by a recent panel with Charles Murray and Robert Putnam at the Aspen Ideas Festival, we set out on a series of research trips to the Rust Belt, Missisippi Delta, and Central Valley of California. Slowly, we settled in on a grand theme—exploring the stunning collapse of family and community life in three “forgotten American cities.”

For this new film, tentatively titled America Lost, we’re combining deeply emotional character stories from Youngstown, Ohio, Alligator, Mississippi, and Stockton, California with social insight from America’s top thinkers including Charles Murray, Robert Putnam, Tyler Cowen, and Francis Fukuyama. Our long-term ambition with the project is to launch a series of films on civic issues and plant the flag for a new brand of “character-driven social documentary.”


We’ve launched a new website and two-minute teaser for the film. We’d love to hear what you think. This message is coming from my personal email address, so please feel free to reply directly. Excited to catch up with you!

Christopher Rufo
Keith Ochwat

P.S. We’d like to thank the Smith Foundation, LaFetra Foundation, and Moving Picture Institute for providing critical early support for the film. You have believed in our vision and, more importantly, believed in us.

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We’ll keep you posted with monthly updates on our films, screenings, behind-the-scenes, and general musings on cinema.