Charles Musser honored for ‘outstanding contribution to film and media studies’

Charles Musser
Charles Musser

The Society for Cinema and Media Studies has selected Charles Musser, professor of film and media studies, as the recipient of its Distinguished Career Achievement Award.

The award honors a scholar who has made “an outstanding contribution through research, teaching, and service to the field of film and media studies.” In its citation, the society stated that “Musser has played a crucial role in helping to define the core questions, methods, and objects of interest that constitute the field of cinema and media studies. His research, teaching, filmmaking, and public humanities projects model how to productively move across disciplines as well as how to synthesize theory and practice in innovative and inspiring ways.”

Mussser will receive the award at the society’s annual conference in April, where he will deliver a presentation reflecting on his career and the field of film and media studies. The society is the leading scholarly organization in the world dedicated to promoting a broad understanding of film, television, and related media through research and teaching grounded in the contemporary humanities tradition.

Mussser is a film historian and documentary filmmaker who has taught at Yale since 1992. His courses include film and media historiography, and American cinema and documentary film (both critical studies and production). He also serves as professor of American studies and theater studies, director of undergraduate studies in film and media studies, and director of the Summer Film Institute.

The Yale professor is the author of several books, including “The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907,” which received the Jay Leyda Prize in Cinema Studies, the Theater Library Association Award for best book on Film, TV and Radio, the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for outstanding book in Media Studies, and other awards. He co-edited “Oscar Micheaux and His Circle: African American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era,” which became the catalyst for “Pioneers of African American Cinema,” a five-DVD box set that he co-curated. The box set received the 2016 Film Heritage Award from the National Society of Film Critics.

Musser has worked extensively in documentary films. He produced and directed the prize-winning “An American Potter” and “Before the Nickelodeon: The Early Cinema of Edwin S. Porter.” He taught the first university-level course devoted to filmmaker Errol Morris and made a feature-length documentary portrait, “Errol Morris: A Lightning Sketch.” His exploration of family photography resulted in a feature documentary, “Our Family Album,” and an accompanying book.

Musser is the film historian for the Thomas A. Edison Papers. He is a founder and served as co-director of the New Haven Documentary Film Festival through its sixth 2019 iteration. He has curated and programmed shows at the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Historical Society, UCLA Film and Television Archives, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas and the Giornate del Cinema Muto (Pordenone, Italy). His numerous awards include the Prix Jean Mitry and the George Eastman House Society International Scholar Award.

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