Spotlight: Kunhardt Film Foundation

When did your organization launch and why?

The Kunhardt Film Foundation (KFF), launched in 2018, is a not-for-profit educational media company that produces documentary films, interviews and teaching tools about the people and ideas that shape our world. KFF was established by a family of filmmakers with a mission to put high quality educational programs into the hands of the public and into schools.

Prior to the launch of KFF, the Kunhardt family produced award-winning documentaries that explore issues relating to history, politics, social justice, the arts, and culture. These films have introduced a generation of viewers to American presidents, senators, cultural and civil rights leaders. They have explored the individuals behind social movements, revealed the inner workings of cultural institutions, and captured times of national tragedy. The principle focus of many of these films is the significance of moral leadership.

What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?

Beginning in 2018, many of KF’s films and interviews are being transferred to KFF to establish a unique educational resource for the public. In September 2018 KFF launched The Interview Archive, which presents 35 hours of interviews with civil rights leaders answering questions about Martin Luther King, Jr. All 19 interviews that were conducted for the HBO documentary King In The Wilderness are now available to the general public. Over time The Interview Archive will make available interviews from other films as the archive expands into an open collection of primary source materials. True Justice, the incredible story of Bryan Stevenson’s fight for equality, is also part of KFF’s collection. Each film includes engagement guides, lesson plans, and resources for bringing stories of moral courage into classrooms. We also have a several exciting undisclosed projects in the works!

What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?

KFF is not just committed to providing feature films and lesson plans to teachers, but also providing a vast array of archival footage, interview archives, and photos to help support media rich instruction about American history and the people who have shaped its policy and culture.

What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?

True Justice, the film about Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative was just added. It’s the most effective and impactful start to conversations about truth and reconciliation I have ever seen.

What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?

KFF recognizes that learning with media happens in thoughtful curation of clips and resources. Rather than throwing 120 minutes of content at teachers, we are organizing lesson plans with small bits of content and bringing first person accounts of history and current events into the classroom.

Why is media literacy important to your organization?

Teachers that are not teaching with media are leaving their students behind. Both in their attention and their skill development. History needs to be heard, seen, and felt. There is no more powerful vehicle to bring the voices, personalities, and impact of our nation’s leaders in civil rights than through media.

Anything else you want our readers to know about your organization, your mission, or your staff?

KFF was born from KF, a multi-generational family of filmmakers. Kunhardt Films specializes in documentary films about the people and ideas that shape American history. Kunhardt Films was founded in 1987 as Kunhardt Productions. Run by Peter Kunhardt and his two sons Teddy and George, the Kunhardts have won 7 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, a DuPont Award, an IDA Award and an NAACP Image Award. Their work as archivists goes back to the Lincoln Family, which is part of the Reserve-Kunhardt Collection, now housed at Yale University. Dorothy Kunhardt was the author of Pat the Bunny.