MARIA FINITZO | Filmmaker

Fiction and Non-Fiction Storytelling

mariafinitzo@filmartsproductions.com

About

I grew up in an Italian/Irish home in an immigrant neighborhood in Chicago. Some of my earliest memories are of the stories my Italian father told my sisters and me as we sat around the dinner table. Tales that ranged from the exploits of our great grandfather who fought alongside the Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi to my own father’s time in the military during World War II.

I always knew I would be a storyteller, but it wasn’t until the first time I sat in a darkened movie theater to watch a film that I realized that I would tell my stories as a filmmaker.  I was completely taken with the power of film to connect a group of strangers through a shared emotional experience. Watching a film in a movie theater remains to this day one of my favorite things to do.

Stories invite us to shift our own perspective to the perspective of another person. Seeing the world through someone else’s point of view fosters empathy and with empathy comes understanding. Filmmaking isn’t really what “I do”- it’s who I am.  And while my films are not about me, they are in effect “the rabbit hole” through which I make sense of and explore the world.  My work has taken me to the Amazon, The Galapagos Islands, Russia, Mexico, Europe and to every corner of the United States. Many of my films both documentary and fiction, (5 Girls, In the Game, The Dilemma of Desire, A Taste of Life,) have explored the lives of women and girls revealing the barriers they face in the quest for personal autonomy. I am interested in telling stories that have at their core a driving desire for liberation– sexual, economic and psychological.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to call four-time Oscar-nominated Kartemquin Films my creative home.  My films are novelistic in their structure, providing multiple points of connection for an audience. allowing the narrative arc of my character’s story to evolve over time, colliding with other subjects from the film, creating a complex, nuanced story that serves as a vehicle to deepen our understanding of society through everyday human drama.

My work has been supported by The Mac Arthur Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Sundance Documentary Fund, as well as numerous private foundations. My films have been shown in community screenings, festivals, theaters and at universities throughout the world winning every major broadcast award, including the George Foster Peabody Award twice and the Alfred E duPont Award. I am a 2007 Sundance Documentary Fellow, a 2018 Film Independent Fellow and a 2020 Chicken & Egg Project Hatched Fellow. I hold an MFA in Writing for the Stage & Screen from Northwestern University.

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EXPERIENCE

In my 30-year career as a filmmaker, my filmmaking has tackled a variety of subjects from the controversial science of stem cell research and the complex questions surrounding the command and control of nuclear weapons to the psychology of adolescent girls, each film demonstrating a deep understanding of the scholarship and research that informs my work. A coming of age story that reveals the resilience of adolescent girls (5 Girls), a father determined to heal his daughter after a tragic accident (Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita) investigates the role of science in a democratic society, a young man, leaving foster care (With No Direction Home) explores the challenges of trying to find one’s place in the world, a soccer coach committed to teaching his players – Hispanic girls – about winning in life (In the Game), and a young couple, both working minimum wage jobs struggling to make ends meet while building a life for themselves and their children  (Hard- Earned ) are all films that explore different realms of storytelling by investigating the important social issues of the day. I am also a screenwriter and fiction film director. In 2014, I founded Film Arts Productions, LLC a Chicago-based production company dedicated to producing independent fiction films. My interest in fiction filmmaking is a natural evolution of my commitment to exploring different realms of storytelling.  Those Left Behind, my first feature film, from my original screenplay premiered at festivals throughout the country and is in distribution with Random Media. Film Arts also has in development my next fiction film, A Taste of Life, an adaptation of the award-winning story Passion by Nobel Prize winning author Alice Munro.

My latest documentary film The Dilemma of Desire explores female sexual desire through the lens of women’s equality. It was selected to premier at SXSW in 2020 and has gone on to screen in over 35 festivals throughout the world.

 

 

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