About Me

My career spans four decades, five continents
and nearly every facet of journalism and mass communication.

I am an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker teaching at American University (AU) in Washington, DC. My career spans four decades, five continents and nearly every facet of journalism and mass communication, most especially visual communication, or visual storytelling. I am the founder and director of AU’s Backpack Journalism Project. I am a pioneer of “backpack video journalism” and one of the craft’s most noted practitioners. I am the author of the highly acclaimed “Essential Video Journalism Field Manual,” and its Spanish-language version, “Manual Esencial de Produccion Video Periodismo.” I teach the first-ever Spanish-language class at AU’s School of Communication (SOC), “Backpack Documentary en Español.” I engineered the SOC’s 2015 partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and am the driving force behind that initiative.

My recent work includes “When the Forest Weeps,” a short film that examines how Ecuador’s Kichwa Indians struggle as their deep spiritual relationship with the Amazonian rain forest diminishes in a clash with the forces of so-called modernity. 

My work also includes the 2015 documentary, “Afghan Dreams,” which I shot, produced and wrote, about four Afghan law students – all female – who defy all odds to compete in the world’s most important competition of international commercial law. In 2013, I shot, produced, wrote and narrated a three-part film series on religion and gangs in Guatemala. The three films, “I. The Gangs,” “II. The Researcher,” and “III. The Pastor,” are viewable on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu2gRjMyacc, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3wnOfHQemY, and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl7fZnPQjR0&feature=em-upload_owner, respectively.

My one-hour documentary, “Through Their Eyes,” was released in 2013. Shot during a four-month teaching assignment in Cuba, the film follows six American University students studying there during fall semester 2011. “Through Their Eyes” explores Cuba, off-limits to most Americans since the 1960s, through the eyes of these young Americans. And it documents the students’ profound transformation during their stay on that forbidden island.

Additional work in Cuba includes “Reading While They Roll: Cuba’s Cigar Factory Tradition,” for Time.com at http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,1465077893001_2108125,00.html. Also on the Time Magazine Web site, see “Cuba’s (Rocky) Love Affair with the Harley-Davidson” at http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,1535177462001_2111035,00.html.

My story for USA Today on the Cuban economy can be seen at http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-06-07/cuba-economy-castro/55448580/1

My previous works include “Nurses Needed,” about the nursing shortage across the United States, and “Afghanistan: The Forgotten War,” about America’s deepening involvement in that Central Asian country. Broadcast in 2008 by NOW on PBS, the stories were named NOW’s Number 1 and Number 3, respectively, most popular of the year. For the Afghanistan piece, I was nominated for a national Emmy Award.

I worked as Documentary Consultant on “The White House: Inside America’s Most Famous Home.” This full-length documentary was the centerpiece of C-SPAN’s weeklong programming about the presidents’ home. The documentary, for which C-SPAN gained unprecedented access to areas of the White House never before filmed, aired nationwide on 14 November 2008, and has aired numerous times since then. The DVD of the documentary has become the best-selling DVD ever distributed by C-SPAN.

In July-August 2013, I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, and participated as a delegate in the 4th meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission (BPC) Sub-Group on Mass Media. The commission is the premier forum between the U.S. and Russia to strengthen relations with each respective government and society.  President Obama and President Medvedev established the BPC in July 2009 to reset U.S.-Russia relations and to engage the Russian government to pursue foreign policy goals of common interest for the American and Russian people.

I began in 1977 as reporter for the Mexico City News and correspondent for United Press International (UPI) based in Mexico City. I covered the 1979 Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua. I spent two years as editor on UPI’s Foreign Desk in New York, then moved to Nicaragua and became Newsweek Magazine’s Contract Photographer for Latin America and the Caribbean. My book of photographs, “Nicaragua,” won the Overseas Press Club Award for Excellence. I covered the U.S.-backed Contra War in Nicaragua and the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980s; the U.S. invasion of Panama; the 1994 invasion of Haiti, the ongoing conflict with Cuba, the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also worked in Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Chad, Angola, Rwanda and Burundi.

In 1995 I went to work for Video News International (VNI), precursor of The New York Times Television Company. I’ve completed assignments for The Learning Channel, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Television, ABC’s Nightline With Ted Koppel, NOW With Bill Moyers, NOW hosted by David Brancaccio, Court TV and Lion TV.

I shared the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights Reporting, Honorable Mention, for a story on rape during the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. I shared two National Emmy Awards and was nominated for two others.

My documentary, “DATELINE AFGHANISTAN: Reporting the Forgotten War,” about foreign correspondence in Afghanistan, premiered in March 2006. The film competed as official entry to the 15th Annual Woods Hole Film Festival. It competed in the 2007 Washington DC Independent Film Festival.

I am a Journalist-in-Residence at American University, where I created that institution’s Foreign Correspondence Network (FCN). I am featured in two award-winning documentaries about international journalism in Nicaragua, “The World Is Watching” and a sequel, “The World Stopped Watching.”

My Video Journalism Workshops, http://videojournalismworkshops.com/live, have received wide acclaim. I have conducted video workshops and presentations in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Uruguay, Venezuela, Suriname, Thailand, Ghana, Cuba and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, for the U.S. Department of State, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Thai Broadcast Journalist Association (TBJA), the International Center For Journalists (ICFJ), American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS), and others.

I am featured in a video produced by the State Department to promote “citizen journalism” around the world. The video is titled, “Raise Your Voice.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIDnpVMzlBc

I received an undergraduate degree at Penn State University. I acquired a Master’s Degree at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. I am fluent in Spanish and have conducted numerous workshops and presentations in Spanish.

Get In Touch

Based in Washington, DC

billgentile@billgentile.com
202-492-6405

Send me mail