Kathryn Hearst


Kathryn HearstPROFILE

Kate Hearst is a film historian, educator, critic, and filmmaker.  She holds a Ph.D. in history and a M.F.A. in film, both from Columbia University.  As film historian, Hearst can be seen in the CNN Decades series: The History of the Movies, 1930s-Present, presenting the decades’ most important directors and influential films.  She is currently developing a four-part web/television series, “The Hidden History of Women Making Movies, 1890s to the present.”  With the recent wave of interest in films directed and produced by women, this series promises to attract a wide audience.  She is passionate about classic film, independent movies & documentaries, and is committed to raising the awareness of women filmmakers. 

Since 2011, Kate Hearst has been teaching and lecturing in cinema studies at various New York-based colleges including: Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University, Brooklyn College and the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema.  She regularly writes for Film International, an online scholarly publication, and advises the web-based series, Women Film Pioneers Project (WFPP), created by the Columbia University Libraries & Center for Digital Research & Scholarship.  Hearst is one of the founding members of the Middlebury New Filmmaker Festival and serves each year as a juror and moderator.  She can also be heard talking about women in film in the podcast, The Other 50%: A Herstory of Hollywood, episode 48.  In 2014, she directed & produced a short documentary, Women’s History Today, for the Women’s History Graduate Program at Sarah Lawrence College (see below).  Prior to teaching, Hearst worked in film and television development at the Polone Company (an affiliate of Hearst Entertainment).  She also worked for Barbara Kopple, two-time Academy-Award-winning documentary filmmaker.  She is a member of the Society for Cinema & Media  Studies(SCMS), International Documentary Association (IDA), DOC/NYC, The Paley Center, and Women Writing Women’s Lives (WWWL).  She also sits on the Advisory Board of the Center for Biodiversity & Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), and the Advisory Council of the Columbia University’s School of the Arts.


The Cinema of Barbara Kopple: American Activist. Book in progress.

"Gender Agency in Harlan County USA, Shut Up & Sing: The Dixie Chicks, and This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous," in ReFocus: The Films of Barbara Kopple, edited by Jeff Jaeckle and Susan Kozloff, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019).

“Challenging the Canon: Women in Early Cinema - Review of Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, Kino Classics (2018),” in Film International, 17.2.

"Trauma, Healing and the Process of Documentary: An Interview with Barbara Kopple, Film International, 16.3.

Origins of Contemporary Documentary: Harlan County, U.S.A., Forty Years Later.” Presentation of article at the Society of Cinema & Media Studies, March 2017, Chicago.

“Family and Transition: This Is Everything Gigi Gorgeous,Film International, February 9, 2017. http://filmint.nu/?p=20272.

“A Conquering Female Spirit in The Brand New Testament,” Film International, February 6, 2017. http://filmint.nu/?p=20220.

Being 17: Sexual Awakening and Race in the Hautes-Pyrénées, Film International, November 11, 2016. http://filmint.nu/?p=19750.

Miss Sharon Jones!: Success and Other Crises,” Film International, October 25, 2016. http://Filmint.nu/?=19618.

“A Multicultural Magnificent Seven for Our Times,” Film International, October 6, 2016. http://filmint.nu/?p=19527

“Review: Race, Gender, & Film Censorship in Virginia, 1922-1965,” Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, Volume 123, No. 2 (Spring 2016), 179.

“Uncovering Phoebe Hearst’s Life,” Bancroftania, University of California, Berkeley, Fall 2006.


Podcast for The Other 50%: A Herstory of Hollywood, Episode #48, June 2017.

“Analytical Perspectives on Barbara Kopple’s Documentaries,” panel presentation at the Visible Evidence Conference, July 2019, USC, Los Angeles.

Origins of Contemporary Documentary: Harlan County, U.S.A., Forty Years Later.” Presentation at the Society of Cinema & Media Studies, March 2017, Chicago.

“New Currents in Documentary Filmmaking,” moderated panel of documentary filmmakers, including Barbara Kopple, Tony Stone, Todd & Jedd Wider, Amy Geller & Allie Humenuk, and John Stanton, Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, Middlebury, Vermont, August 2016.

“Women Film Pioneers,” Media Presentation & Discussion, Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, Middlebury, Vermont, August 2015.  

“Avant-garde Film Pioneer: Maya Deren,” – Lecture & Presentation for “Experimental Filmmaking” course at Sarah Lawrence College (SLC), May 2015.

Women in Film: A New Historical Perspective,” Media Presentation & Panel Discussion, Library Theater Association, Lincoln Center, NY, October 2014.

“Performing Gender” - Moderated panel of LGBT gender performance in media and film,” Sarah Lawrence College, March 2014.

The Future of  Independent Filmmaking,” Organized and moderated panel of Independent Filmmakers, including Damani Baker, Maggie Greenwald, Ron Jarrett, Chris Fleming & Melissa Strype, 1st Filmmaking Conference, SLC, April 2013.


Women/Gender, Race, Class & Sexuality in Film and Media: History & Film Theory.

This yearlong seminar analyzes gender, race, sexuality and class in American cinema from its origins to the present. Students develop critical understandings of cinema & media, not only as part of film history, but also as vehicles for activism and change. We study cinema & media and assess interpretations, often rooted in feminist & African-American criticism, multicultural & postcolonial theories. A variety of films & media are screened and discussed: early motion pictures, classical Hollywood, woman's films, early and contemporary African-American cinema, avant-garde, film noir, feminist cinema, documentary, queer cinema, action/ adventure, fantasy, global cinema, television & new media.

World Cinema, 1960-present.

This course analyzes the history of transnational cinema from the 1960s to the present. Critical moments of innovation and transformation of cinema are studied from around the world, including: the "New Waves" in France and Europe; new documentary and experimental filmmaking; the rise of third Cinema in Latin America; re-inventions in Hollywood; the cinemas of India, China, New Zealand, Denmark and the Middle East; the expansion of independent filmmaking with new visions of race, gender, and sexuality; and finally, the advent of blockbuster co-productions and digital cinema. Cinematic transformation is addresses on multiple levels: formal/ aesthetic, technological, industrial and socio-political. Through close textual analyses of individual films, new formal and stylistic trends are examined. Students develop critical understandings of aesthetic trends and innovations, as well as changes in production, distribution and reception.

FILM GENRE: The Western, Film Noir & The Romantic Comedy

The Western, Film Noir, and the Romantic Comedy are three enduring Hollywood genres that engage viewer’s imaginations through myth and fantasy. From the studio era to the present, film genres attract audiences with recognizable characters, plots, styles and conventions. In this course, students develop critical understandings of these conventions, and explore how formulaic films can also incorporate social and cultural changes in America. We examine how filmmakers, studios, studios and actors participate in creatively reconfiguring formulaic films to engage audience’s fascinations and potentially subvert cultural norms. Students develop a mastery of these three film genres through screenings, critical readings, writings, and lively discussions. By the end of the semester, students are able to identify the aesthetics and conventions of each of the three film genres, and understand how genre films incorporate industrial, socio-cultural and ideological transformations.

Activism & Change in Contemporary Women's Biography.

How are biographies mirrors of the world, and windows for activism and change? What is the relationship between the contemporary biographer and historical subject? How are narratives, particularly about women's lives, researched and constructed? How do biographies of women impact our understanding of traditional histories? These are some of the questions addressed in this seminar. Students examine how authors use a variety of primary sources (such as diaries, letters, memoirs, oral histories, musical lyrics), and create often with slim primary source material, full narratives which illuminate history in new ways. Students discuss how contemporary women's biographies have resonance for today's discourses and power relationships of gender, race, class and sexuality.


Film Historian, CNN Decades series: The History of the Movies, 1930s-Present (to be released in July 2019), presenting the decades’ most important directors and influential films. 

In Development, “The Hidden History of Women Making Movies, 1890s to the present,” a four-part web/ television series.  Further Information upon request.


Podcast with The Other 50%: A Herstory of Hollywood, episode 48


Director/Producer, Women's History Documentary - Women's History Graduate Program at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY

Kathryn Hearst at the Paley Center International Summit, 2014


Kathryn Hearst, Ph.D., M.F.A.-Film
email: katehearst1@gmail.com