AU professor Dara Padwo-Audick explores global themes through documentary filmmaking
Through her upcoming ‘Climate Changemakers,’ she educates viewers on topical issues of social justice
American University Professor Dara Padwo-Audick uses her platform as a documentary filmmaker to inform viewers on issues like women’s empowerment, media literacy and disability rights. An adjunct professor in the School of Communication, her current project, titled “Climate Changemakers,” profiles the youth climate justice movement in both the U.S. and Egypt.
Padwo-Audick began her career as a documentary filmmaker in the 1980s working for International Information Resources in D.C. She then worked for National Geographic Television for five years before she started teaching as an adjunct professor at AU in 2004. Soon after, she opened up her own media company, Creative Strategies Media. Since then, she has contributed to broadcast programs and commercials on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and ESPN. Her work has taken her to Africa, Asia, Central America and every U.S. state.
In 2018, she was hired by the Department of State as a media co-op producer through the Foreign Press Center. There, she partnered with foreign journalists to help them tell stories about the U.S. She aimed to help foreign journalists learn about how Americans organize around issues and communicate with each other through the documentaries and programs she filmed and produced. In a recent partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo, she produced a documentary on media literacy.
“The goal of this project through the Foreign Press Center is to educate the world about the way organizations and people in the United States get their messages across, which is very different from the way they do this in other countries,” she said. “We’re trying to show them what it is to express things in a democratic society.”
She also expressed her dismay at the oppressive political realities many of the journalists she partners with live under. Many of the journalists she works with live in countries like Russia and Egypt that do not have the same protections afforded by freedom of press, she said.
“We're trying to show them what it is to express things in a democratic society, realizing that they cannot implement everything we show them,” she said.
For “Climate Changemakers,” she will be partnering with Egypt Today journalist Angy Essam and videographer Amira Nour. Together, they are producing a mini-documentary and magazine piece on climate justice groups run by young people in D.C., Miami and San Francisco. They will be interviewing groups including This Is Zero Hour, Dream in Green and the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit, which are youth activist organizations focused on educating adolescents about environmental justice and empowering them to take action in their schools and local communities.
After filming meetings and interviews for American climate activist groups, the series will follow young Egyptian climate activists ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cairo this November. Padwo-Audick’s goal in creating “Climate Changemakers” is to educate Egyptian youth and empower them to become more involved in climate issues. She believes freedom of speech and youth empowerment are important to the current Egyptian political climate.
As an adjunct professor at AU, Padwo-Audick teaches the art of documentary filmmaking in classes like “Writing The Documentary Film.” She said one of her favorite parts of teaching is seeing her students craft films around topics that impact them.
“All the time my students inspire me, particularly at AU, because we're very social justice oriented, so I love to hear their points of view,” she said.