Faculty Co-Chair, MFA in Film
Nina Davenport has made five feature-length documentary films, all of which have won awards at film festivals, been broadcast on television stations around the world, and received critical recognition.
Her first film, HELLO PHOTO (1994), a poetic and cinematic essay about her travels in India, premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and won “Best Documentary” at Melbourne. Her second film, ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID (2000), a humorous and poignant account of her love-life, aired on HBO/Cinemax and on Channel Four’s “True Stories.” Davenport’s third film PARALLEL LINES (2003), a lyrical road movie about her journey from California back home to New York in the aftermath of 9/11, premiered at IDFA and aired on the BBC series “Storyville.”
OPERATION FILMMAKER (2007) explored the relationship between filmmaker and subject, as it followed an Iraqi film student who traveled from war-torn Iraq to a Hollywood movie set: it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and aired on the PBS series “Independent Lens.” FIRST COMES LOVE (2012), which follows Davenport’s journey into motherhood, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and was broadcast on HBO in July of 2013. Davenport studied filmmaking at Harvard College (BA, 1990), where her mentors were Robb Moss, Ross McElwee, and Robert Gardner.
After graduating from Harvard, she became a Teaching Assistant in the Visual & Environmental Studies Department, where she taught students about all aspects of film production. Davenport has given talks at many universities and institutions, such as The New School and The Smithsonian and has been a fellow at Yaddo and The Bogliasco Foundation. She is the recipient of numerous grants, including from the National Endowment for the Arts and Harvard’s Film Study Center. She has worked as a cinematographer on many independent films.
ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID — Nina Davenport
"One of the most personal documentaries out there. Nina Davenport's journey through her life as a wedding videographer who is unable to receive a marriage commitment from her boyfriend. As she attempts to make sense of her life, Davenport interviews elderly women who never married and her own mother, who was quite the prize in her day. What escapes onto film is a courageous young woman who leaves her heart out for the taking." —Chris Bogner (2000)
OPERATION FILMMAKER — Nina Davenport
Soon after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, a young and charismatic film student, Muthana Mohmed, stands in the rubble of the city's film school and explains to an American television audience that his dream of becoming a filmmaker has been destroyed—first by Saddam Hussein, then by American bombs. This brief, fortuitous appearance on MTV changes Muthana's life forever. Watching in the United States, actor/director Liev Schreiber stops channel surfing, utterly captivated. Feeling guilty about a war he opposed, Schreiber decides to extend to the unknown Iraqi the opportunity of a lifetime—to come to Prague to work on an American movie, EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED. On set, frustrated expectations complicate the relationship between Muthana and his American benefactors in what becomes a cross-cultural endeavor gone awry. Filmmaker Nina Davenport becomes increasingly entangled in the young Iraqi's life as his visa is about to expire and the threat of returning to Baghdad looms. OPERATION FILMMAKER, revealing on several levels, addresses the power dynamics between the American filmmaker and her Iraqi subject, unfolding as an engaging parable about the US invasion of Iraq. (2007)
AFI Fest 2007: Winner, Documentary Award (tied for 1st)
Chicago International FIlm Festival 2007: Winner, Special Jury Prize for Documentary
Rotterdam International Film Festival 2007: Winner, KNF Award
PARALLEL LINES — Nina Davenport
In the sudden aftermath of 9/11, award-winning filmmaker Nina Davenport drives from California to her New York City home, searching for the American identity within the people she meets. (2004)
HELLO PHOTO — Nina Davenport
In her startling, exquisitely shot HELLO PHOTO, documentarist Nina Davenport turns the conventions of the travelogue inside out. She takes us to India and abandons us there, leaving us to believe what we see through her eyes. Her movie replicates the experience of being a traveler and thus a voyeur, of taking in sights without necessarily understanding their meaning. Davenport seems less interested in cracking the enigma of India than in savoring it. Her hunger makes her unashamed, like the eager children who find the eye of her camera the next best thing to sweets. (1995)
Chicago International Film Festival 1995: Nominee, Gold Hugo for Best Short Film
Melbourne International Film Festival 1995: Winner, City of Melbourne Award for Best Documentary