Deborah Shaffer

Deborah Shaffer

Fellow: Awarded 1986
Field of Study: Film

Competition: US & Canada

Deborah Shaffer began making social issue documentaries in the early 1970s, as a member of the Newsreel Collective.  In 1972, she cofounded Pandora Films, a women’s production company, which produced How About You? and Chris and Bernie.  In 1979 she made the labor history documentary The Wobblies, which was shown at the New York Film Festival.  During the 1980s, Ms. Shaffer focused on war and human rights in Latin America, directing Nicaragua: Report from the Front; Witness to War, which received an Academy Award and was aired on PBS; Fire from the Mountain, which received an Emmy nomination, was shown at the New York and Sundance film festivals, and aired on the PBS series POV; and Dance of Hope, which received the Prix d’Or–FIPA and was screened at Sundance.

Ms. Shaffer was one of the first filmmakers to work in post-9/11 New York City. From the Ashes–10 Artists (shown at Sundance and Tribeca, and aired on Cinemax/HBO) captures the impact the attacks had on ten downtown New York artists, followed a year later by From the Ashes–Epilogue (shown at Tribeca).  She is also the executive producer of the short documentary Asylum, which played at Sundance and Human Rights Watch, won Best Documentart at Aspen Shortsfest, and was nominated for an Academy Award.

In addition to her work as a director of independent documentaries, Mr. Shaffer has directed numerous programs for public television, including Secrets Underground, which won a Christoper Award and an Emma Award; Art 21–Art for the 21st Century, which received an Emmy nomination; and Ladies First: The Women of Rwanda, which received an Emmy Award, Sigma Delta Chi Award, and a Cine Golden Eagle; she has also worked extensively as an editor.  In addition to her Guggenheim Fellowship, she has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts.  She is a founding member of First Run Features, and a member of IFP, NYWFT, and WGA.  She was recently awarded the Irene Diamond Lifetime Achievement Award by the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.


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