Orlando Bagwell departing Ford Foundation, Cara Mertes to head its JustFilms

By Dru Sefton

Cara Mertes, a past executive director of American Documentaries Inc., ex-e.p. of its POV and former programmer for WNET’s Independent Focus, will succeed Orlando Bagwell to head up the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms, which backs social-justice documentaries.

Mertes is currently director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund, where she will remain until September.

Bagwell is returning to filmmaking after more than eight years at the foundation, it announced today. He joined Ford in 2004 as a program officer and initially led its five-year initiative, Global Perspectives in a Digital Age, Advancing Public Service Media. He also directed grantmaking for public media, media rights and access, arts and culture and religious issues. In 2010 he established the foundation’s five-year, $50-million JustFilms project, which produced films on such complex topics as climate change (The Island President), LGBT rights (Love Free or Die) and criminal justice (The House I Live In).

Sundance and the Independent Television Service are partners with Ford in JustFilms.

Bagwell is known for documentaries including the critically acclaimed Eyes on the Prize the 14-hour civil-rights series on PBS in 1987 and ’90. He worked as an executive producer and filmmaker at WGBH from 1995-2000.

He discussed his impending Ford departure with the New York Times in February.

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