Award-winning doc director Barbara Kopple on learning from the past

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Image: Barbara Kopple and Cabin Creek Films. Used with permission.

What can we learn from our past? It's another simple question on the surface, but a reminder there is more going on than meets the eye. Journalists have that ability to remind us of what we need to be reminded.

Barbara Kopple is one of the best-known political documentary producers in the United States. Her first film, Harlan County USA, was released in 1976 and established her reputation.  Her newest film, Desert One, explores the story of the 1979 rescue of the secret mission to free hostages captured during the 1979 Iranian revolution. 

This mission has been called "the most audacious, difficult, complicated, rescue mission ever attempted." At a moment when tensions once again rise between the governments of Iran and the United States, old wounds remain painfully current for many on each side who detail their recollections in Desert One -- but talk of hope also emerges, that the lessons of the past might finally guide us to a better future. 

Kopple discovers a wealth of unearthed archival sources and receives unprecedented access, engaging in intimate conversations with many of the soldiers closest to the story, some for the first time, as well as president Jimmy Carter, vice president Walter Mondale and TV newsman Ted Koppel.

Evocative new animation brings audiences closer than anyone has ever gotten to being on the inside for this history-making operation. This is the thrilling story of a group of Americans working together to overcome the most difficult problem of their lives. Among those Americans is Jimmy Carter, readying to face a re-election challenge when self-described student revolutionaries suddenly take power in Iran. Anti-American students take the U.S. embassy in Tehran by force and hold hostage 52 American diplomats and citizens.

Barbara Kopple talks about curiosity, politics and historical unknowns, rich and complex stories, the magic of people, being better informed and why she's always been a good listener.

About Barbara Kopple:

Barbara Kopple is a two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker. A director of documentaries, as well as narrative TV and film, one of her more recent projects was the documentary Running From Crazy, which explores the life of actress Mariel Hemingway.

She is also well known for her documentary Harlan County USA and American Dream, both winners of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. In 1991, Harlan County USA was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and designated an american film classic. Harlan County USA was restored and preserved by the Women's Preservation Fund and the Academy Film Archive, and was featured as part of the Sundance Collection at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005. The Criterion Collection released a DVD of Harlan County USA in 2006.

Kopple has received many awards including  the Human Rights Watch Film Festival Irene Diamond Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Award, National Society of Film Critics Award, the SilverDocs/Charles Guggenheim Award, New York Women in Film & Television Muse Award, the Maya Deren Independent Film and Video Award, and the Woodstock Film Festival Maverick Award.

She recently served her 10th year on the board of trustees for the American Film Institute and continues as an advisory board member for the American University Center for Social Media and Independent Feature Project's Filmmaker Labs. In 2010, she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from American University. Kopple is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Director's Guild of America, New York Women in Film and Television’s Honorary Board, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and actively participates in organizations that address social issues and support independent filmmaking.

Image: Barbara Kopple and Cabin Creek Films. Used with permission.

F2F Music: David Peck and Face2Face. 

For more information about David Peck's podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here. With thanks to Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.

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