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Rachel Lears '95: Award-Winning Documentary Filmmaker

While in the Upper School at Stuart, Rachel Lears ’95 aspired to do work at the intersection of scholarship, activism and creativity. She majored in music at Yale, then earned a Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology, a Graduate Certificate in Culture and Media, and a PhD in Anthropology at NYU.

Rachel's graduate work focused on music, media and politics in Latin America as well as documentary film production. Since finishing her doctorate in 2012 she has worked full time as a documentary filmmaker and freelance director, producer and cinematographer, focusing on social justice issues. Rachel’s feature film, The Hand That Feeds (2014), and short film The New Fight for Voting Rights (2016), have become tools for grassroots movements to build solidarity for social change. She has a new film, NETIZENS (2018) about three women whose lives have been transformed by online harassment.

She recently premiered her latest documentary, Knock Down the House at Sundance Film Festival. The film follows four women as they run for Congress including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The film received a standing ovation and the Audience Award for US Documentary at Sundance 2019. After its success at the prestigious festival, Netflix purchased her documentary.

Throughout her eclectic career, Rachel has built upon educational foundations in research, writing, photography, music and Spanish, as well as the values of intellectual curiosity, collaboration, community, resourcefulness and respect for diversity and dialogue, all of which she learned and practiced at Stuart.