Giovanna Chesler (they/them) directs documentary and narrative films addressing themes of the body, sexuality, and gender. Their films have been exhibited at hundreds of film festivals worldwide and in museums and gallery spaces including the Chicago International Film Festival, Outfest LA, Frameline San Francisco, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, and La Jolla Contemporary Art Museum. Giovanna is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Film and Video Studies Program at George Mason University, and affiliated faculty in Film and Media Studies and Women and Gender Studies at Mason. In 2019, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities awarded Giovanna a Fellowship in Media Arts.
Giovanna has directed ten films including their recent short fiction drama The Pick Up (2018, 10 min) awarded Best Short Fiction Film (Audience Award) at Cineffable Paris International Lesbian and Feminist Film Festival and Best Short Film (Audience Award) from image+nation in Montreal. Their feature film in development Sweetheart Ranch is a semi-finalist at the 2019 Vancouver International Women Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. Giovanna’s other recent fiction shorts include Java (2017, 11 min) and Bye Bi Love (2010, 17min.) Their hour-long documentary Period: The End of Menstruation (16mm, 2006, Cinema Guild) looks at cultural and medical trends in menstruation and was covered on the front page of The New York Times as a touchstone on the debate over menstrual suppression. It was the most emailed article for two days and received international press attention, demonstrating how this taboo subject deserves wider discussion.
Giovanna Produced the award-winning documentary Out in the Night (dorosh-walther 2014) about four black lesbian and gender non-conforming women who became criminals for defending themselves against a homophobic street attack. The documentary premiered on PBS’ POV program and Logo simultaneously and is used in 70 countries by the United Nations in their Free+Equal campaign to combat homophobia and violence against trans people. In 2016, Giovanna co-edited and Associate Produced Zeinabu irene Davis' documentary Spirits of Rebellion: Black Cinema from UCLA about the first collective of black, Asian American and Latinx filmmakers in the US that aimed to reimagine the film production process to represent, reflect on, and enrich the lives of people in their own communities. Spirits was awarded the African Academy Award for Best Diaspora Documentary and won an audience award and jury award at Blackstar Film Festival for Best Documentary.
Over two decades, Giovanna has produced videos for progressive organizations, video artists and filmmakers, working with a team of talented video makers affiliated with their production company, G6 Pictures. Most recently, they traveled to Pompeii, Italy to focus on the Pompeii Food and Drink Project and their archaeological endeavor to document all food and drink consumption and production in the ancient city. Early in their career, Giovanna worked as the Associate Producer and Production Manager on Wild at Start: High Technology Adventures and the American Dream (2000, Capela) following 15 startup companies in Silicon Valley during the high tech bubble of the late 90's.
Giovanna received an MFA in Cinema from San Francisco State University (awarded Most Distinguished Graduate) and a BA in Anthropology and minor in Women's Studies (with Highest Distinction) from the University of Virginia. Giovanna’s earlier film awards include Honorable Mention in Fiction Filmmaking from the University Film and Video Association for Bye Bi Love and the Gold Plaque Award for Best Student Documentary from the Chicago International Film Festival for BeauteouS: Stephanie. They received the Most Distinguished Filmmaker award from San Diego Women Film Festival for their service to that organization and work creating a curriculum to teach young girls filmmaking that is still in use today by the Girl Scouts of America. In 2016, Women in Film and Video DC identified Giovanna as one of 31 women filmmakers of note.
Giovanna has taught courses in directing fiction and documentary film, community engaged video activism, interactive storytelling, transmedia for social justice, feature screenwriting, and sound theory and design. Their published work focuses on sound, sound theory, documentary, and service learning / collaborative learning teaching. Giovanna regularly presents work at academic conferences.
In 2016, Giovanna co-founded 51st Storytellers with filmmaker Dawne Langford at the Creative Time Summit - a group of curators, filmmakers, and digital storytellers living and working in our 51st State of Washington, DC. Giovanna juries several film festivals and artist award programs, has served on the selection committee for the AFI Docs, and co-founded Ladyfest San Diego in 2005 with Kim Manchester.
In their current role as Director of Film at Mason, Giovanna works with the talented, award-winning filmmakers and staff who comprise the Film and Video Studies faculty at George Mason University to build and sustain an inclusive model of filmmaking practice and film education. The Film and Video Studies staff truly support these efforts through their vision, innovation and commitment to the students and their work. Read more about the Film and Video Studies program in GMU's Mason Spirit Magazine.