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Stephen Wardell

Stephen Wardell
Visiting Assistant Professor

Stephen Wardell is a queer filmmaker from the Midwest. They approach filmmaking as a lifelong, personal practice. Their reasons for making films are always shifting, but often it comes from a desire to build community through a group production. Other times it is a desire for a solitary, mindful process. Their films often imagine queer futures and critique systems of power in everyday life. They are interested in queer filmmaking not as a process of increased representation in an industry, but as an anti-industry phenomenological process of using narrative and metanarrative structures to examine the contemporary forces that construct and maintain queer cultural identity as a counter-hegemonic force. They often work in collaboration with their large family, and they are interested in situating their process with the people, places, and spaces that are close to their heart.
Before seriously pursuing filmmaking, Stephen studied philosophy and worked in an adult foster home for developmentally disabled adults. They have also served in AmeriCorps, and worked for the state of Michigan trying to increase post-secondary education attainment in low-income high schools. These jobs were meaningful but exhausting, and filmmaking became a way to balance a service-oriented life with play, the pursuit of joy, and queer expression. This search for balance continues to be a defining theme in their life and work.

Recent screenings include: Visions du Réel, Switzerland; Harkat 16mm film Festival, Mumbai; Engauge Experimental Film Festival; L’Alternativa Independent Film Fest Barcelona; Ann Arbor Film Festival; Chicago Underground Film Festival, and the NoBudge streaming platform. In 2020 they were the winner of the Emerging Artist jury award at the Mimesis Documentary Festival. In 2021 they received their MFA in Film and Video Production from the University of Iowa.