DER's mission is to promote thought-provoking documentary film and media for learning about the people and cultures of the world.
We believe that film and media offer powerful opportunities for engaging emotions and intellect, altering preconceptions, and fostering tolerance and understanding about people and the diverse cultures of the world.
Innovation and Authenticity in Storytelling and Cinematic Representation
We value films that convey the complexity of human social and cultural relations, using the rich opportunities for storytelling and cinematic representation afforded by the media available, and based on respectful relationships between filmmakers and subjects.
Access and Preservation
We believe that providing access to non-fiction films for both scholarly and general audiences is an important contribution to the stewardship of our historical and cultural memory.
We believe in the importance of connecting filmmakers and audiences, and in maintaining high professional standards in the quality of our products and in our interactions with filmmakers, educators, and our professional community.
Access and Distribution:
· We represent films with enduring value as documents of human societies and cultures, that portray unique subjectivities, record diverse cultural practices and beliefs, and offer insights into the processes underlying social and cultural continuity and change. We look for films that reflect deep cultural knowledge, whether through research or the close collaboration of filmmaker and subjects.
· We strive to build a collection that spans diverse filmmaking genres and styles and includes seminal works in the history of ethnographic filmmaking, vérité and personal documentary, and other forms of experimental and non-fiction filmmaking, as well as contemporary works of excellence.
· We embrace new technology in order to make these resources available to the widest possible audience, as we recognize the distinct value our materials offer scholars as well as the general public. We make special efforts to share our films with the people whose lives have been documented and their descendants.
· We seek out opportunities to extend the learning connected with the films in our collection. This can include development and dissemination of educator and discussion guides, partnerships with school and community organizations, and creation of supporting materials available on a content-rich website.
· Through fiscal sponsorship, workshops and consulting, we support filmmakers who use media in the documentation of social and cultural practices, processes and beliefs.
· We often work with filmmakers with a longstanding relationship to the communities and individuals with which they work and/or whose work is grounded in research or scholarly discourses.
· We work with filmmakers to make available the highest quality versions of their films, by identifying and mastering new versions of significant historical titles including those not previously released on contemporary video formats and releasing works that have fallen out of distribution.
· We frequently work with filmmakers to produce discussion and study guides, as well as other materials to extend learning related to their films.
Documentary Educational Resources is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1968 and incorporated in 1971 for the purpose of producing and distributing cross-cultural documentary film for educational use. We were early innovators in developing 16mm film and media based curriculum for classroom use. Our company focus since then has broadened to embrace films with a wider aesthetic and audience appeal. We continue to support filmmakers who have long-term commitments to the people that they film; we find that filmmakers who work collaboratively with their subjects produce film with integrity.
It is also our focus to distribute media that has the power to overcome barriers to cross-cultural understanding. Media can be the first step in growing sensitivity and awareness of other cultures. This in turn may lead to tolerance and acceptance and eventually give way to appreciation and admiration of other cultures.
Our archive is one of the most historically important resources of ethnographic film in the world today. In 1975 DER co-founders John Marshall and Timothy Asch were key figures in establishing the Human Studies Film Archives at the Smithsonian Institution and their bodies of work are among the most significant ethnographic collections within the HSFA. We continue to collaborate with the Smithsonian and other archives on the use of our films for research.
During the early 1970s, Documentary Educational Resources (DER) concentrated on two major projects which precipitated our conviction to produce quality anthropological films for educational purposes. These were a longitudinal series of films by John Marshall on the !Kung San (Bushmen) peoples of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, and a series of films by anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and filmmaker Timothy Asch on the Yanomamo Indians of the Orinoco Region in southern Venezuela. These two series gave DER initial recognition as a quality producer and distributor of 16mm films with wide appeal to university audiences, and provided the foundation for acceptance of our organization as an international center for anthropological and sociological film.
In the later 1970s, DER instituted a program of acquisitions to widen the content base of our film library. We acquired a number of series of films: on the Alaskan Eskimo, on daily life in Andalusia, Spain, on political and cultural diversity in Kenya and the Sahel region of Africa, and co-produced or administered productions exploring the significance of Balinese trance and healing, examining the diversity of music and dance in New England, and presenting a wide variety of films on American life and heritage. We represent producers from every populated continent. At present, DER's library contains over 400 film and video titles used internationally in classrooms and other educational institutions.
We support independent filmmakers with workshops in digital editing, AVID and Final Cut Pro, as well as offering fiscal sponsorships. We will advise filmmakers on the marketability of their programs and assist in fundraising. Our stock footage archive has enhanced many international productions and is available for licensing. Our internship program is very popular with students looking to combine their interest in world cultures and media.
Underlying the diversity of DER's collection is the conviction that film is a valuable teaching medium, which offers us an immediacy of experience of other cultures and places. We distribute worldwide to hundreds of universities, libraries, museums and schools annually. DER's films have been broadcast internationally on PBS, HBO, The Discovery Channel, and in Switzerland, England, France, Germany, Japan, Finland, The Netherlands, South Africa and Australia.
We have received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy, the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, the Rock Foundation, National Video Resources, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and from the National Film Preservation Foundation to restore two classics from our archive, Tim Asch's The Ax Fight and John Marshall's The Hunters.
We make extensive use of the Web to inform all targeted communities about our services and to provide curriculum support material to enrich the understanding and use of our films. These resources are free. We train an average of 10 interns a year. Our internships help students from a variety of backgrounds realize their potential and define career goals. Through the vehicle of fiscal sponsorship we assist independent filmmakers whose work is focused on cross-cultural understanding.
We offer low-cost workshops in documentary film and funding strategies for independent filmmakers. We also offer access to our archive free of charge to filmmakers doing research on communities experiencing cultural change and to teachers in k-12 schools.
Media is one of the most powerful tools for informing and influencing opinion. All our filmmakers have collaborated with the communities they portrayed to ensure that their work is ethical and authentic. Many communities have learned the lessons of the power of the media and have used it not only to document such things as the last remaining speaker of a Native language, but also to inform governments of indigenous land rights. We have been working on projects such as these since 1968. This constructive use of media shows no signs of decline.
We serve general audiences world wide through progressive educational television broadcasts, Free Speech TV, and film festival audiences, students and educators from 5th grade to adult worldwide, Native communities and classrooms worldwide and Independent documentary filmmakers. This includes all socioeconomic levels, races, ethnic groups, sexual orientations, gender, age and physical abilities.
Many of our films are closed-captioned, some deal with disability as experienced in different cultures. Because we work collaboratively with the communities filmed, this ensures that their needs are addressed. We respond to current events and our archive is historically important. For example, following 9/11 we focused attention on our films from Afghanistan from 1970 to 1980's to offer in depth information on the geography, people and culture beyond the sound bites of network TV.
Alice Apley, Executive Director
Frank Aveni, Director of Design & Media
Alijah Case, Communications & Outreach Manager
Nicolas Brynolfson, Digital Media Specialist
Bob Follansbee, Office Administrator
Board of Directors
Executive Director, DER
Curator of Visual Anthropology
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Sue Cabezas, President, DER Board of Directors
Executive Vice-President, Applewood Books
Research Professor of Anthropology, University of Missouri
Retired Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara
National Academy of Sciences Member
Co-Founder, First Hand Learning, Inc.
Former Director of Education, Buffalo Museum of Science
Archivist, Smithsonian Channel
Associate Professor of Anthropology, Temple University
Mary Anne Saul, Secretary, DER Board of Directors
Retired Social Studies Teacher, North Reading High School
Purcell Won, Treasurer, DER Board of Directors
Auditor, State Street Bank
Patsy Asch, Advisor
Trustee, Tidmarsh Farms
Founder, Living Observatory
Visiting Scientist, MIT Media Lab
DER is able to promote thought-provoking documentary film and media for learning about people and cultures of the world thanks to individual donors, private foundations, and government grants.
Your generous financial support enables DER to:
· Distribute our collection of 800+ films to audiences around the world
· Continue to build our catalog with innovative new works that document social and cultural experiences, offer insights into processes of continuity and change, and critique social and cultural stereotypes
· Help preserve historically important ethnographic and documentary films
· Continue to play a leading role in the use of media in academic research and studies, such as anthropology, sociology, ethnomusicology and history
· Support media makers through our fiscal sponsorship program
· Support public screenings of DER's films in communities around the world
· Support our current initiative to create an online database and offer films through digital means
Donate by mail or phone:
Send check to
101 Morse Street
Watertown, MA 02472
All donations are tax deductible.
DER invites corporate sponsors to support the continued expansion of it's mission and programs. If your company is interested in exploring ways to work with DER's initiatives and programs by providing support please send us an email at or contact us at 617-926-0491. All donations are tax-deductible.
If you have further questions please contact us by email, fax, phone or mail.
Phone: 1 (800) 569-6621 or 1 (617) 926-0491
Fax: 1 (617) 926-9519
Documentary Educational Resources
101 Morse Street
Watertown, MA 02472
DER wishes to thank our sponsors for their continued support
Documentary Educational Resources is funded in part by a generous grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.