Ivan Weiss is a documentary filmmaker, writer, photographer, and teacher based in Durham, North Carolina.
His work has spanned a variety of subjects, including experimental music, baseball, desegregation, the plight of wounded military veterans, and more. His films explore the wide emotional range of our everyday lives, from the mundane and boring to the humorous and inspired. He collaborates with a diverse range of artists, and seeks unconventional ways to tell stories.
Festival tells the story of three music events—the electronic music festival Moogfest; the jazz, R&B and hip-hop-infused Art of Cool; and the traditional African American Bimbé—that took place in Durham, N.C., in May 2016.
In this fast-revitalizing (some would say “gentrifying” or even “homogenizing”) midsized city, this short documentary offers audiences an opportunity to reflect on the churn of past, present, and conflicting visions of the future. Watch it, and read a related article by Sam Stephenson on Public Books.
Commissioned by Duke Performances, this short video chronicles the world premiere of Piedmont Blues: A Search for Salvation, in early December 2016. Renowned jazz musician Gerald Clayton conceived and composed the project, amd spent two years developing a 75-minute set inspired by Piedmont blues songs and musicians.
The Big Ears Film
Set within Knoxville’s history and culture, The Big Ears Film is a meditation on listening and looking in this age of media overload and distraction.
As director and producer, I led a team of 5-10 documentarians to the festival over three years, and I am in the process of editing the material into a 90-minute film. Housed at the documentary company Rock Fish Stew, this project has led to other outcomes, including an art installation and an online media series called Big, Bent Ears (see below).
Nazoranai: A Documentary
“I just want to hear things I've never heard before.”
In March 2014, the improvisational sound trio Nazoranai came together for their U.S. premiere, at the Big Ears festival in Knoxville, T.N. Nazoranai: A Documentary goes behind the scenes, spending time with members Stephen O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi, and Keiji Haino.
Big, Bent Ears
A serial in documentary uncertainty
A 10-part series for The Paris Review—the famed New York literary journal’s first foray into multimedia—Big, Bent Ears combines writing, video, audio and photography.
“a unique and beautifully designed combination of critical literary writing, documentary filmmaking, and event review–seems like a great reason for the Internet to exist. If this is the future of ‘content,’ then…YES!”
— Best Music Journalism: March 2015, Red Bull Music Academy
Surrender to the Situation
Framed around two trips from Durham, N.C., to New York City, this multimedia mini-series (part of “Big, Bent Ears” in The Paris Review) features experimental musicians Oren Ambarchi and crys cole, and Tyondai Braxton and his collaborators. These three chapters explore the connections between travel and creativity, movement and stasis, and freedom and constraint.
Eight (or so) ways of looking at a baseball game
In 2013, a team of artists converged on the stadium of the legendary minor league team The Durham Bulls to document the home season. None had a specific assignment.
Leaving Traces chronicles their efforts. Features work by photographers Alex Harris, Frank Hunter, Kate Joyce, Leah Sobsey, Alec Soth, Hank Willis Thomas, Hiroshi Watanabe, and Jeff Whetstone, and writer Adam Sobsey.
The Education of Ida Owens
A story of integration, civil rights, and Duke University
This 30-minute documentary follows Ida Owens from her upbringing in rural North Carolina to her years at Duke University, where she became the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D.
A personal exploration of Southern history, higher education, and the civil rights movement, The Education of Idea Owens brings to the forefront the past and its lingering effects.