main navigation
my pace

Faculty & Staff

back to Faculty & Staff

Pace Path Series: History in the (film)Making

News Story

With one foot in the '60s and the other in the future, Professor Maria Luskay, EdD, and Pace Academy’s Andrew Revkin capture a unique time in Cuba’s history on film through the Producing the Documentary course.

For one week in March, while many at Pace enjoyed some well-deserved down time during spring break, the Producing the Documentary course once again hit the road with their film gear to put a semester’s-worth of preparation to the test.

This time, in Cuba.

The island nation, which has recently restored diplomatic relations with the US after more than a half century of severed ties, welcomed President Barack Obama as it prepares to enter a new era of American tourism. Obama’s visit marks the first visit to Cuba by a US president since Coolidge, and Pace’s very own Producing the Documentary students were there to capture history in the making.

Fifteen students were led by Dyson Professor and Program Director for the MA in Media and Communication Arts (MCA) program Maria Luskay, EdD, and The New York Times “Dot Earth” blogger and Pace Academy Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding Andrew Revkin to shoot a documentary on location about the environmental and economic changes currently facing Cuba during this pivotal moment in time.

The student team met with Cuban historians and experts in environmental and architectural conservation; explored organic farms, a sugar-growing region, and a botanical garden; interviewed experts who described ways to preserve the best of old Cuba while developing an economy frozen in the '60s; and even caught a Rolling Stones concert—for free.

“Wherever we looked, Cubans—toughened by decades of deprivation—showed an inspiring ability to restore, reimagine, and enjoy the simplest things,” says Revkin.

“How fortunate for us that in one week, we got to witness history being made, from Obama to the Rolling Stones. It was an incredible time in Cuba. For one week in March 2016, Cuba opened its doors to the United States and America stepped inside,” echoes Luskay.

This total cultural and professional immersion is a unique course offered each spring by Luskay, with collaboration by Revkin on environmental content. The students study history and prepare equipment, interview questions, and shooting techniques for months before they depart to shoot the footage.

“The students, as always in this course, have to be ready at a moment's notice to deploy cameras, connect with interview subjects, ask cogent questions and—most important—‘get the shot,' in the words of my colleague Professor Luskay,” says Revkin.

Now that the team has returned, they will spend the remaining weeks of the semester editing, mixing, and finalizing the film before it appears on Revkin’s “Dot Earth” blog and premieres at the Jacob Burns Film Center on Tuesday, May 10.

In line with the Pace Path’s mission of providing students with powerful combination of knowledge in the professions, real-world experience, and rigorous academics, the Producing the Documentary course is a once in a lifetime opportunity for budding filmmakers. “This class is as hands-on as a student will ever get,” says Luskay. “They create a documentary that is featured on Andy’s New York Times blog and shown in a theater. It is true experiential learning.”

Stay tuned for more information about the film’s premiere. In the meantime, learn how the team tried to keep the equipment and themselves dry while waiting for Obama’s motorcade in the rain, see their beautiful Cuban landscapes captured on film, and learn about the struggle of catching a flight home on their Pace in Cuba blog.