Cara Mertes, former director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund, has been named the successor of Orlando Bagwell at the Ford Foundation's JustFilms program. (See Ford Foundation: Grants for Film.) Bagwell was the inaugural director of Ford's documentary film program, and in his short tenure he took the program to great heights of accomplishment, including a recent Oscar nomination. The highly experienced Mertes is well positioned to lead JustFilms to even greater heights.
Cara Mertes (read Mertes's IP profile) joined the Sundance Institute in 2006. She moved to Sundance after working as executive producer of the award-winning P.O.V. series from 1999 to 2006. Mertes has a host of credits and awards to her name, including a number of Emmy and Peabody awards and an Oscar nomination. Sundance has been a close partner with JustFilms for a while now, so this transition makes perfect sense all around.
Darren Walker, vice president of the Education, Creativity and Free Expression program at Ford, said at the time of the announcement:
Cara is a visionary in the field of independent filmmaking and we are thrilled for her to take the helm of JustFilms and continue to bring fresh perspectives on some of the most important social justice issues of our times. Through her experience working on all elements of storytelling, and being a pioneer at finding and cultivating unique voices to have their stories told, Cara is well positioned to build on the legacy of JustFilms and to support filmmakers at every turn, from creation to distribution and impact.
For her part, Mertes is more than happy to be joining the Ford family. "It is a great privilege to join the Ford Foundation as director of JustFilms," she's quoted as saying. "Orlando has inspired the field to excellence for many years, and JustFilms will continue to advance the social justice work of the institution through creative storytelling. I believe in the transformational power of non-fiction film and I look forward to working with filmmakers and organizations alike on a broad range of issues with a deep-rooted focus on making a difference in people's lives."
No word yet on who will fill Mertes's shoes at Sundance. (See Sundance Institute: Grants for Film.)