Untitled Withers Project

Meet Ernest Withers, civil rights photographer, and FBI informant. Untitled Withers Project reveals the man and motives behind the iconic images.

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Funding Initiative
Open Call
Series and Special Projects
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Phil Bertelsen

An award-winning filmmaker, Phil Bertelsen works in both fiction and non-fiction. Most recently he produced and directed EveryOther, a social satire about racial identity that was featured in the PBS series Matters of Race. His last film, The Sunshine, won numerous awards and is included as part of the Full Frame Documentary DVD Collection. Bertelsen Show more also wrote and directed Outside Looking In, examining transracial adoption in America and airing on public television. Additionally, he was a writer/director fellow at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab and has an M.F.A. from New York University where he won a Student Academy Award for his dramatic short Around the Time. Show less

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Lise Yasui

Produced, directed, and wrote A Family Gathering, (Academy Award Nomination) which explored the impact of the WWII Japanese American internment on her family and was broadcast on PBS's AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, the BBC, and Star TV, Asia. She produced The Gate of Heavenly Peace, (Peabody Award) which explored the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre; and Morning Show more Sun, about China's Cultural Revolution. "Gate" aired on PBS's FRONTLINE and was broadcast internationally. Yasui is a non-profit development consultant and producer based in Philadelphia. Show less

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The Film

The vibrant life of Ernest Withers was anything but black and white. Soldier, police officer, civil rights activist, and paid FBI informant. It’s an unlikely resume for an African American photographer in the 1960s, but complex times spawn complicated stories. From his Memphis studio, Withers developed nearly 2 million images that came to illustrate America’s civil rights stories. But perhaps the push and pull of history is best illuminated by Withers’ lesser-known work, decades of secret FBI service uncovered only after his death. From the flashpoint of an American saga, Untitled Withers Project brings us a tale from in front of, and behind, the camera.