Academy Award-Winning Filmmaker, SU Honorary Degree Candidate to Teach Maymester course

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Gerardine Wurzburg, one of six individuals of exceptional achievement to receive Syracuse University honorary degree at its 157th Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 15, will remain in Syracuse to teach a MayMester course, CFE 600, “Documentary Films in Education: The Director’s Cut.”

In her most recent work, “Wretches & Jabberers,” two men with autism embark on a global quest to change attitudes about disability and intelligence. Determined to put a new face on autism, Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette travel to Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland. School of Education Dean Douglas Biklen produced the film with Wurzburg.

The School of Education will host a colloquium with Wurzburg on Friday, May 13, at noon in 056 Huntington Hall titled, “Stories from the Road: Wretches and Jabberers,” about her latest film project.

Wurzburg’s MayMester course will look at the portrayal of education (broadly conceived) though the medium of documentary film. It will examine how films narrate educational issues and Wurzburg will discuss documentary storytelling techniques.

What makes Wurzburg’s work so compelling is her remarkable ability to enter the lives of her subjects through spending hours upon hours with to them elicit their feelings, thoughts and viewpoints to a degree not seen in the work of others covering similar issues. Wurzburg has won the top prizes in documentary film making, including the Japan Prize, Blue Ribbon of the American Film Institute, Henry Hampton Award, Edward R. Murrow Award for Broadcast Documentary, six Freddie Awards for International Health Communication, five National Academy of TV Arts and Sciences Emmys, a CINE Golden Eagle for Best International Film, the Cable ACE Award for Best Documentary Director and the National Education Association Award for the Advancement of Learning Through Broadcast.

Wurzburg won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short in 1992 for “Educating Peter” (HBO, 1992), a film that documented how Peter, a child with Down syndrome, was successfully included in a regular education third-grade classroom. Wurzburg directed “Autism is a World” (HBO, 2004), which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004. This film is the story of Sue Rubin, a college student with autism as told in her own words. Wurzburg and Biklen also produced “Autism is a World.”

For more information about Wurzburg’s MayMester class, visit or call the Department of Cultural Foundations of Education at (315) 443-3343.