February 2021 Cinema Femme had the honor of speaking with documentarian Dawn Porter about her impactful films. We bring back our interview with her to celebrate Juneteenth weekend.
*Not an updated biography, biography from February 2021. Learn more about Dawn Porter’s latest work here.
DAWN PORTER Biography Award-winning filmmaker, producer, and mental health/social justice advocate Dawn Porter has emerged in the entertainment industry as a leader in the art of storytelling; directing and producing critically acclaimed projects that have impacted generations of people from all walks of life. In 2020 Porter’s two poignant documentaries, “The Way I See It” (Focus Features) which is a look into two American presidencies, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama from the lens of official White House photographer Pete Souza, and “John Lewis: Good Trouble” (Magnolia Pictures), the story of the congressman and civil rights icon, have been praised by critics and audiences alike. “The Way I See It” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival ahead of a limited theatrical release during the Coronavirus pandemic and a record-breaking release on MSNBC, handing the cable news network its highest-rating Friday night ever.
Media raved: “The Way I See It” is “a galvanizing documentary” (Entertainment Weekly), “a welcome reminder of what executive dignity looks like” (The Los Angeles Times), “could carry on being relevant to audiences for decades to come” (Variety), and “impeccably crafted and consistently engaging” (The New York Times). Porter’s award-winning work “John Lewis: Good Trouble” has been met with equal acclaim, being called “bursting with inspiration both powerful and essential” (Film Inquiry), “of importance now more than ever” (Salon.com), and “an intimate homage to both the legend and the man, as spry and lively as Lewis himself” (RogerEbert.com).
Kicking off the 2021 award season, Porter received Mill Valley Film Festival’s prestigious 2020 Mind the Gap Award for Documentarian of the Year. In addition, both of her documentaries received a slew of Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards nominations, with wins for Best Political Documentary (“John Lewis: Good Trouble”) & Best Score (“The Way I See It”), with Oscar buzz trailing behind.
As a two-time Sundance film festival director, Porter discovered her passion for filmmaking following her time as an attorney. She made her feature directorial debut in 2013 with “Gideon’s Army,” which premiered on HBO, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an Emmy, won Best Editing at Sundance, and is now part of the U.S. Department of State’s American Film Showcase. Her 2016 film “Trapped,” which explores laws regulating abortion clinics in the South, won the Special Jury Social-Impact Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and a Peabody Award (to name a few). Additional film directing credits for Porter include PBS’ “Spies of Mississippi” and The Discovery Channel’s “Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper.” On the television front, Porter directed Netflix’s 2018 four-part series “Bobby Kennedy for President” and is set to direct and executive produce Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry’s upcoming documentary series on mental illness and mental well-being for Apple TV+.
Porter currently resides in Massachusetts with her husband and two children, Eli and Will.