Pierre Desir (filmmaker)

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Born August 22
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Pierre Hermann L. Desir Jr. is an American filmmaker, artist and retired professor.

Early life and education

He was born to parents Pierre Hermann Desir Sr., from Haiti who worked at the Haitian Delegation of the United Nations, and Nicolina Melchionna from Italy. Desir grew up in Jamaica, Queens, Long Island. Desir first attended the United Nations International School, and then attended Jamaica High School.[no citations needed here] At 18, he attended Davies College in London, receiving a C.Ed. in European Literature and History in 1967. He later attended Queens College, where he received a BA in African Studies in 1979. He received a master's in African History and in 1992 an MFA in film, both from University of California, Los Angeles.


While at UCLA, Desir was the cinematographer on three films, Cylces, Trumpetistically, Clora Bryant and Compensation.[1]

He also was an assistant professor of cinematography in the visual and media arts department at Emerson College until 2009.[2] Desir was one of two black professors denied tenure at Emerson, as documented by the Tufts Daily, Berkeley Beacon[3] and Bay State Banner.[4]

As an associate professor at Ithaca College, Desir received a research grant in cinema and photography.[5]

He has been a visiting lecturer at the University of California, San Diego,[6] and Dillard University, and a visiting professor at Emerson College.[7]

Desir appeared in the film L.A. Rebellion. But at an early screening of the film, which at the time was still a work in progress, Desir and other participants did not agree with the film's title or premise, with Desir noting at the screening that the film's title implied the filmmakers were reacting against a paradigm rather than simply expressing themselves.[8] The LA Rebellion was defined at the time as a political awakening when some African Americans and Latinos believed the American Dream was a myth.[9]

Desir was the cinematographer for the 90-minute documentary Bob Kaufman: When I Die, I Wont Stay Dead, which screened at the 2016 New Orleans Film Festival. Critic Peter Goldberg wrote that it captured an "unblinking poet of vital intensity, driven by a deep sense of justice, welded firmly to the Earth."

Personal life

He splits his time between California and his family's farm in Waterloo, New York.


Year Film Title Role Notes
In Progress Thelonious: Unknown Experiments in Flight Part 2 Director Poetry in Motion, 16mm film
In Progress Erzulie's Gift Director Experimental Film. Poetry in Motion, 16mm film.
2007 Thelonious: Unknown Experiments in Flight Part 1 Director Poetry in Motion, 16mm film[10]
2006 Satchmo : The Arrival of Gabriel on a Wing and a Half-Note Director, co-writer, actor, co-producer Poetry in Motion, 16mm film 20Mins.[11][12]
2000 ZoNA Director, co-writer, actor, co-producer, Editor, Sound design Narrative Feature, 16mm film[13]
1992 The Gods & The Thief Writer, director, editor, cinematographer Experimental/Narrative, 16mm film[14]
1990 Work Writer, director, cinematographer, editor Experimental, 16mm film
1988 Kakilambe Director A dance video of the Ballet Koumankale of Los Angeles
1986-1987 Blockade Runners Director, camera operator, editor Documentary about Cuba film production. Taped at 7th Festival of New Latin American Cinema, Havana, Cuba, December 1985
1985 Just a Job Director, co-writer, editor Drama about assassination of union official by a has-been secret agent
1984 Edge Cinematographer, editor Experimental film exploring boundaries of light, shadow and film contrast
1984 Impression of Cuba Director, camera editor Documentary about 14th Contingent of Venceremos Brigade in Cuba
In Progress Detroit: UnRuined Voices Cinematographer, editor Documentary video by Kathryne Lindberg and Todd L. Duncan
2016 Bob Kaufman: When I Die, I Wont Stay Dead Cinematographer Documentary video by Billy Woodberry
2005 The Brother Cinematographer, camera-operator. Narrative Feature, digital video by Eva Benedikt (San Antonio International film Festival 2006) (Audience Award, Best Feature); International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg, 2006)
2005 Trumpetistically Co-cinematographer Documentary, video, film, DVCam formats, by Clora Bryant (National Black Programming Consortium Project Grant, $60k, November 2002; "Sneak Preview", Prized Pieces Film Festival, 20th Anniversary celebration, National Black Programming Consortium, Schomburg Center, New York; Area Premiere, 13th Annual Pan African Film Festival, Magic Johnson Theaters, Los Angeles)[1]
In Progress Planet Without a Visa: the Embattled Life of Leon Trotsky Cinematographer Documentary Feature Film by Lindy Laub[no citations needed here]
1999 Compensation Cinematographer, storyboard artist, script consultant Narrative Feature by Zeinabu Davis (2002 Paul Robeson Prize, Best Film, Narrative Section; Newark Museum 28th Annual Black Film Festival; Gordon Parks Award, 1999 Independent Feature Market, NYC; “Outstanding Film” - Reel Black Award, Black Film & Video Network, Toronto; Independent Spirit Award Nomination, Best First Feature under $500k, IFP-West; Sundance Channel 2000-2003; BET Stars Network 2000-2003)[14][1]
1988 I Look Through a Window Cinematographer Documentary Feature Film by Stephen Edwards.
1988 Cycles Cinematographer, Script Consultant Experimental Drama and Film Short by Zeinabu Davis Many Awards.[14][1]
1987 Sweet Bird of Youth Cinematographer[no citations needed here] Film by Zeinabu Davis
1986 Minstrels Cinematographer Documentary Film by Marie Kellier
1986 Out of Arabie Cinematographer Narrative Film Short by Susan Evans
1985 Throwing Strikes Cinematographer Narrative Film Short by Dino Castro
1985 Audio Visual Cinematographer Narrative Film Short by David Strom
1992 Golden Chickpeas Production sound recordist Narrative Feature Film by Nigol Bezjian
1988 No Not One Production sound recordist Narrative Feature Film by George Gary


  • Finalist for the American Film Institute Filmmakers Fund, 1995
  • James Pendleton Production Grant, 1997
  • Kodak Product Grant, 1994
  • Dana Internship, 1994
  • Jerry Loveless Grant, 1994
  • The Hortense Fishbaugh Fellowship, 1986
  • The Foreign Press of Hollywood Award, 1986
  • The Dorothy Arzner Award, 1985


  • Thelonious: Unknown Experiments in Flight, Part 1. Festival International du Film d’Amiens, Amiens France, 2007.
  • Satchmo : The Arrival of Gabriel on a Wing and a Half-Note. Festival International du Film d’Amiens, Amiens France. 2007. Film Today, California Institute for the Arts, 2007. Balagan Films Boston, 2007. University Film and Video Association Conference, 2006. FPS, Emerson College, March 2004.
  • ZONA. University Film and Video Association Conference, August 2001. Cornell Cinema, Cornell University, February 2000. California Institute of the Arts, “Film Today”, April 2000. Ithaca College, April 2000. Athens, Ohio International Film Festival, April 2000. Chicago Underground Film Festival, August 2000. Brooklyn Film Festival, September 2000.
  • The Gods & The Thief. ONI Art Collective, Boston, MA, January 2003. Black Harvest International Film & Video Festival, Film Center of the School of the Arts Institute, Chicago, Illinois, July 1995. Rada Artist Collective, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 1994. 26th Humboldt International Film Festival, "Romano Robertisini Banana Slug Award for Surrealist Film," Arcata, California, March 1993. Whitney Museum of American Art; "Re-mapping Cultures," New York, New York, May 1992. London Film Festival, November 1992. Festival International du Film D'Amiens, France, November 1992.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Pierre Désir | UCLA Film & Television Archive". Cinema.ucla.edu. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu/la-rebellion/pierre-d%C3%A9sir. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  2. "Students bid farewell to one-quarter of Emerson#039;s full-time black professors". Berkeley Beacon. http://berkeleybeacon.com/students-bid-farewell-to-onequarter-of-emerson039s-fulltime/. 
  3. "Tenuring House and Desir: The right thing for Emerson". Berkeley Beacon. http://berkeleybeacon.com/tenuring-house-and-desir-the-right-thing-for/. 
  4. "Tenure fight just the latest racial skirmish for Emerson". The Bay State Banner. April 13, 2009. https://www.baystatebanner.com/2009/04/13/tenure-fight-just-the-latest-racial-skirmish-for-emerson/. 
  5. "College Announces Research Grant Recipients, Vol. 18, No. 16". Ithaca College News. https://www.ithaca.edu/icnews/vol18/18-16/recipien.htm. Retrieved April 15, 2019. 
  6. "UCSD Communication - People". Communication.ucsd.edu. http://communication.ucsd.edu/People.php. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  7. "My Experience with a Man-Eating Croc at the Lake Placid Film Festival (Just Kidding- about the croc, not about the festival)". Sagindie.org. http://www.sagindie.org/indieblog/my-experience-with-a-man-eating-croc-at-the-lake-placid-film-festival-just-kidding-about-the-croc-not-about-the-festival. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  8. "What’s in a Name? L.A. Rebellion | UCLA Film & Television Archive". Cinema.ucla.edu. October 28, 2011. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu/blogs/archival-spaces/2011/10/28/what%E2%80%99s-name-la-rebellion. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  9. "Rebel Forces by Vera Brunner-Sung - Moving Image Source". Movingimagesource.us. http://www.movingimagesource.us/articles/rebel-forces-20111026. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  10. "THELONIOUS: UNKNOWN EXPERIMENTS IN FLIGHT: Amiens International Film Festival". Filmfestamiens.org. http://www.filmfestamiens.org/?THELONIOUS-UNKNOWN-EXPERIMENTS-IN,1450&lang=en. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  11. "SATCHMO: THE ARRIVAL OF GABRIEL ON A WING AND A HALF-NOTE: Amiens International Film Festival". Filmfestamiens.org. http://www.filmfestamiens.org/?SATCHMO-THE-ARRIVAL-OF-GABRIEL-ON%2C1448&lang=en. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  12. "Local Filmmakers Series - New Films at Emerson College". June 2016. http://www.balaganfilms.com/big-balagan-local-filmmakers-series-new-films-emerson-college. Template:Dead link
  13. "Underground Film Festival Continues To Prosper -". Chicago Tribune. August 18, 2000. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-08-18/entertainment/0008180116_1_largest-festival-chicago-underground-film-festival-year-s-festival/2. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "The gods and the thief a film". Worldcat.org. October 15, 2001. http://www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-no2002-31250. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 

External links

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